Response to rail blockade must be calculated

One of the greatest things about this country is our right to voice our opinion on things we feel make Canada less than perfect.

And as Canadians, we certainly exercise this right on a regular basis whether it’s rants on social media, in print or even just strangers who make the mistake of steering small talk towards politics. We all know someone who, if given even the slightest opportunity, will overtake a conversation and provide a lecture on why they know more than any given elected official.

When a protest goes beyond a rant or even a public picket line on a sidewalk, it can get a little complicated. Such is the case with the railroad blockade in Tyendinaga.

Protestors showing solidarity with West’suwet’en chiefs opposed to the pipeline in B.C. have virtually shut down a major section of Canada’s economy by blocking the tracks. At press time, the blockade was enterting its 13th day.

While its been non-violent, it certainly hasn’t been without consequence. Travellers who rely on Via Rail to get across the country have been forced to either find other accommodations or cancel trips altogether. Businesses that rely on CN Rail to transport goods from one end of the country are reporting combined economic losses estimated in the millions of dollars per day. Already there have been temporary layoffs.

Those negatively affected by the blockade are well within their reason to be upset about the situation. Whether they support the pipeline or not, the fact is those losing money from the blockade have nothing to do with what is going on out west. Even if they wanted to cancel the pipeline, they simply have no influence on the issue, yet they’re the ones feeling the pinch.

On the other hand, it’s not hard to see why those wanting to get their message heard have chosen this tactic. Agree with it or not, the fact is Ottawa wouldn’t be negotiating with a group of protestors who were simply off to the side of the road waving signs that voiced their displeasure.

Simply ordering the OPP, RCMP or Canadian Armed Forces to move in and clear the area isn’t as simple as it may seem. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has already come out and said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should order the police to take action. Losing a federal election comes a few benefits, one of them being the ability to criticize without having to back up those words with action. Whether Scheer would be so gung-ho to escalate the situation were he the one who had to sign off on it, we’ll never know.

Though an injunction has been issued by Canada’s court of law calling the blockade unlawful, police have yet to enforce it-and with good reason. There’s obviously a very long history of tumultuous relationships between the police and Canada’s Indigenous People. Any steps taken to resolve the situation must be calculated while keeping in mind that unless underlying issues are dealt with, this matter will rear its head in other ways.

-Adam Prudhomme

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