The Ontario Provincial Police have moved in on the rail blockade near Belleville, Ont., where protests by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga have crippled passenger and freight train traffic for more than two weeks in solidarity with anti-pipeline protests in northern B.C.
Police and CN Rail had warned protesters to clear the area by midnight Sunday. Police and the railway ordered the camps dismantled, warning protesters would face charges if they disobeyed.
The CBC’s Olivia Stefanovich is on the scene and described it as a tense time as dozens of police officers moved in on the camp around 8:15 a.m. ET. A handful of protesters have been handcuffed.
The solidarity protest began Feb. 6 in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their efforts to stop construction of a $6-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.
The OPP said in a statement Monday morning that it could arrest demonstrators who don’t comply, but added that “use of force remains a last resort.” The provincial police are enforcing an Ontario Superior Court of Justice injunction, which CN obtained earlier this month to end the demonstrations.
“We have remained respectful of the ongoing dialogue, including issues of sovereignty between our Indigenous communities and various federal ministers, and have hoped for productive communication leading to a peaceful resolution,” said OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson.
“Unfortunately, all avenues to successfully negotiate a peaceful resolution have been exhausted and a valid court injunction remains in effect.”
The Mohawks of Tyendinaga had said they would remain by the railway until the RCMP withdrew from Wet’suwet’en territory.
Earlier this month, B.C. RCMP enforced a court injunction against those preventing contractors from accessing the area for construction.
RCMP in British Columbia moved its officers out of an outpost on Wet’suwet’en territory to a nearby detachment in the town of Houston on Friday, but won’t stop patrolling the area — a move that partially addresses a demand set by the nation’s hereditary chiefs late last week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said that barricades on rail lines and other major transportation routes must come down after two weeks of calls for patience and stalled attempts at negotiation.