St-Lambert, QC — Canadian National Railway says it has received a court injunction to end a rail blockade in a suburb south of Montreal.
CN spokesman Olivier Quenneville confirmed the railway received the court order Thursday.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said earlier in the day police would dismantle the blockade in St-Lambert as soon as an injunction was granted. The premier told reporters that because the blockade is not on First Nations land, it is easier for the government to take action.
The blockade erected Wednesday “is on Quebec territory. It’s not on the territory of a First Nations,” Legault said
The blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia was erected on CN tracks, and it has disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and for Via Rail travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.
At the site on Thursday, a few dozen protesters — well stocked with supplies, tents, camping gear and firewood — said they plan to stay put as long as RCMP remain on Wet’suwet’en lands. Snow was piled onto tracks, with signs strung across a cord hung between rail signals.
“We will stay until the RCMP leaves Wet’suwet’en territory and the hereditary chiefs are satisfied that conditions have been met,” said one member of the protest group, who didn’t give his name.
“The blockade is in solidarity with others in Canada, and we’ll follow the orders of the hereditary chiefs. If they are satisfied, we have no further reason to stay,” the man said.
Also on Thursday, the RCMP confirmed the commander of the Mounties’ British Columbia division had written to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, agreeing to discuss the future of a small contingent of officers stationed on their traditional territory.
Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the RCMP has offered to move officers away from the area where the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been opposing a pipeline on their territory.
But Blair said Legault and Quebec police forces have jurisdiction over the protest actions south of Montreal.
“It is their responsibility to enforce the injunctions that are obtained,” Blair said. “But I also know those police services, and they are dedicated to finding the most peaceful way to respond to these conflicts.”
In addition to the St-Lambert blockade, railway tracks have been blocked for more than a week on the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, south of Montreal. Legault said that blockade on Mohawk territory is more problematic because the area has its own police force.
“It’s a First Nation territory, so yes, there is a difference,” the premier said.
At the blockade in St-Lambert, David Skitt, who said he lives nearby, got into a respectful but heated argument with a masked protester.
“Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs,” he told reporters afterwards. “They are blocking a railway. I just want this to be settled. I find this unfortunate. I love this city. I find this unacceptable.”
A Twitter account claiming to represent the St-Lambert protesters said the RCMP offer to move away from the disputed area in B.C. was insufficient.
“The RCMP are not accepting the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ demands,” a tweet Thursday afternoon said.
“We’re still standing in solidarity. We’re not leaving.”