The right to protest is essential, but this right does not include the ability to indefinitely shut down critical infrastructure, including rail lines.
Last week protests began after the RCMP enforced a court injunction against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who had been halting construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
People sympathetic to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ position have now brought much of the Canadian rail network to a halt, including all Canadian National Railway operations in Eastern Canada.
From the outset this whole situation is confusing because the democratically elected council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation is in favour of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
However, hereditary chiefs are responsible for decisions regarding ancestral lands under traditional Wet’suwet’en law.
So the people of the Wet’suwet’en Nation seem to have spoken in favour of the pipeline, as have the Canadian public that elected a Liberal government whose position on this pipeline was clear, but it seems a few hereditary chiefs can overwrite the will of their own people and Canadians if they feel like it.
The Alberta barley and wheat commissions said 39 ships are waiting at the Port of Vancouver and eight ships are waiting at the Port of Prince Rupert, and the situation is about to get a lot worse because of the rail delays.
We know that major delays in delivering products to customers can affect Canada’s reputation as a reliable commodity supply for years.
Teamsters Canada said the protest could put up to 6,000 workers at CN and other rail companies out of work.
There are clearly damages being occurred so who should the bills be sent to — the hereditary chiefs?
Or should the people erecting rail blockades across the country pick up the tab?
There needs to be repercussions for causing damage to Canadian industries, and Canadians.
Canada has one of the most respected court systems in the world, which is sympathetic to the rights of the First Nations, and it’s time for the people erecting rail blockades to make their case in front of a judge.
We absolutely need the right to protest and stand up for what we believe in, but this doesn’t mean that if we don’t get what we want we can violate the rights of other Canadians.