OTTAWA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday urged those blocking rail lines in protest against the construction of a natural gas pipeline to find a quick solution, as police warned they were ready to step in and end the standoff.
Anti-pipeline protesters near tracks in Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, disrupted passenger trains and goods transportation for a sixth straight day on Wednesday.
The Ontario blockade of the Canadian National Railway (CN) line is in support of Wet’suwet’en Nation’s opposition to the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia. Ontario police on Tuesday warned they had a court injunction ordering that the area to be cleared.
Trudeau, during an official visit to Senegal, said that while peaceful protest is a fundamental part of Canada’s democracy, the rule of law must be respected.
“That’s why I am encouraging all parties to dialogue to resolve this as quickly as possible,” he said in Dakar at a news briefing televised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The protests against the pipeline have turned into a flashpoint for Indigenous rights demonstrators. Trudeau has said it is a priority for his government to repair relations with First Nations and to champion Indigenous rights.
The C$6.6 billion ($4.97 billion) pipeline at the heart of the dispute would move natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to the Pacific Coast, where the Royal Dutch Shell-led LNG Canada export facility is under construction. The pipeline will be operated by TC Energy Corp.
All of the elected indigenous band councils along Coastal GasLink’s route support the project. But Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs oppose it because of its potential impact on the environment and say that they, and not the community’s elected officials, hold authority over traditional lands.
Canadian National Railway Co, the country’s biggest railroad, said on Tuesday it may be forced to shut down parts of its network unless the blockades end, and others have warned of the economic consequences.
Canadian National Railway transports more than C$250 billion ($188.2 billion) worth of goods annually.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called for an “immediate end” to the blockades.
“From propane to grain and food and consumer items, Canada’s supply chains are being severely damaged by the continuing interruptions to Canada’s rail services by protesters,” the chamber of commerce said in a statement.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bernadette Baum