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Trudeau skipping Caribbean trip amid rail blockades, protests – CTV News

February 16th, 2020

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has cancelled a planned trip abroad as protests continue to choke rail travel across the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Sunday night that Trudeau will remain in Canada on Monday, skipping a two-day trip to Barbados during which he planned to secure support from Caribbean leaders for Canada’s bid to land a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

“Following the government’s ongoing efforts to address infrastructure disruptions across the country, the Prime Minister will convene the Incident Response Group tomorrow to discuss steps forward,” PMO wrote in a statement Sunday.

Our priority remains the safety and security of all Canadians and the swift resolution of this issue to restore service across the rail system in accordance with the law.”

Trudeau returned to Canada late Friday after spending a week in Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal and Germany, where he attended the Munich Security Conference.

He spent the weekend in private meetings in Ottawa, according to his public schedule.

At least some of those meetings touched on the ongoing protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and opposition within that community to the current proposal for a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that he had talked to Trudeau both before and after his nine-hour meeting with Mohawk First Nation members in Tyendinaga, Ont. on Saturday.

A protest next to a rail line in Tyendinaga, Ont., has resulted in CN Rail halting its freight service in Eastern Canada and Via Rail doing the same for all passenger service across the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Canada will be represented in the Caribbean by Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in Trudeau’s stead. 

More to come. 

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Trudeau discusses rail blockades with cabinet following critical meeting – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in talks over the weekend with federal cabinet ministers as protesters opposed to a pipeline project in British Columbia continued to halt train service across parts of the country.

Trudeau’s spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said Sunday the prime minister had already spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Gagnon said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also briefed Trudeau about his hours-long meeting Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation near Belleville, Ont., where a rail blockade has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.

Gagnon did not reveal what Miller told the prime minister, and said the government would provide updates as they become available.

Government chooses dialogue over police intervention

Miller said during an appearance on Radio-Canada’s political talk show Les coulisses du pouvoir on Sunday that the unrest and its impact on the economy amounted to a “national crisis.” 

He said he believes a peaceful resolution could be reached, and pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable to police intervention.

“We lived through it 30 years ago, when people went in, when police went in, there was a death,” said Miller. “The question we should all be asking ourselves as Canadians is: What do we do as a nation? Do we favour the peaceful path, openness, dialogue, or do we do things the old way, which got us here in the first place and which won’t end anything?”  

“I choose the peaceful approach, the open approach, co-operation.”

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades, which have been erected in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline that crosses their territory in northern B.C. The pipeline is is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

Tyendinaga Chief Donald Maracle said he was not involved in Saturday’s talks and declined comment. Members of the First Nation at the blockade declined comment.

A spokesperson for Miller said he was not available for an interview on Sunday.

After meeting with members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nation on Saturday, Miller said “modest progress” was made, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

“We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done,” he said.

Miller said the focus of the discussions was on the natural gas pipeline in British Columbia that is opposed by the hereditary chiefs. But he said other issues arose as well, without going into detail on what else was raised.

“The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday; they’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

Watch: Indigenous Services minister says ‘modest progress’ made in talks on rail blockade

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller  wrapped up daylong meetings with members of the Mohawk First Nation Saturday evening. 0:50

Meeting planned between hereditary chiefs, B.C., and Canada

Members of the Gitxsan First Nation temporarily took down a rail blockade near Hazelton, B.C., Thursday pending a proposed meeting with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would be available as soon as arrangements for the meeting are made. B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said he will represent the provincial government.

But while the talks have been represented as a joint meeting with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en chiefs to engage in dialogue on how the impasse over the pipeline development arose, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chief says leaders of his First Nation will only participate as witnesses.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting was proposed by the neighbouring Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en chiefs planned to honour the invitation.

“We have a willingness to move forward positively, we still have that in our hearts,” he said Sunday, while adding the Wet’suwet’en chiefs won’t budge on the pipeline.

“Our answer isn’t going to change. The pipeline won’t happen on our territory.”

Rail services disrupted

Blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, including GO Transit services between Toronto and Barrie which were affected on Saturday.

CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration near Belleville on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

The company obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline. RCMP made more than two dozen arrests in attempting to enforce the injunction.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

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PM calls off diplomatic visit to Caribbean amid ongoing rail stoppages – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled a trip to Barbados scheduled for Monday as Indigenous demonstrators and their supporters continue to halt train service across parts of the country.

Trudeau planned to bring his pitch for a UN Security Council seat to a two-day gathering of leaders from across what is known as the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, but will send Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne instead.

“Following the government’s ongoing efforts to address infrastructure disruptions across the country, the prime minister will convene the Incident Response Group tomorrow to discuss steps forward,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. The IRG is a group of cabinet members and high-level officials the prime minister leans on in times of crisis.

The decision comes amid mounting pressure from business leaders and politicians who want the government to take more of an active role in resolving the crisis, which some say is damaging the economy and could lead to shortages of propane and other consumer goods.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met for over nine hours with members of the Mohawk First Nation Saturday, saying only “modest progress” had been made in talks to end the main blockade near Belleville, Ont., which caused VIA Rail and CN Rail to cancel rail services.

Trudeau’s spokesperson Chantal Gagnon said earlier Sunday that the prime minister was in talks with federal cabinet ministers over the weekend. Gagnon said Trudeau spoke to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Gagnon also said Miller briefed Trudeau about his meeting Saturday with the Tyendinaga Mohawk, although she did not reveal what Miller told the prime minister.

Government chooses dialogue over police intervention

Miller said during an appearance on Radio-Canada’s political talk show Les coulisses du pouvoir on Sunday that the unrest and its impact on the economy amounted to a “national crisis.” 

He said he believes a peaceful resolution could be reached, and pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable to police intervention.

“We lived through it 30 years ago, when people went in, when police went in, there was a death,” said Miller. 

A police officer died during a police raid in 1990 when Mohawks at the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal blocked the Mercier Bridge, which became the Oka crisis. Five years later at Ipperwash, Ont., one man was killed during a standoff over a land claim by Chippewa protesters outside a provincial park.

“The question we should all be asking ourselves as Canadians is: What do we do as a nation? Do we favour the peaceful path, openness, dialogue, or do we do things the old way, which got us here in the first place and which won’t end anything?”  said Miller. “I choose the peaceful approach, the open approach, co-operation.”

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades, which have been erected in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline that crosses their territory in northern B.C. The pipeline is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration near Belleville on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

The company obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

Sean Finn, an executive with CN, said while the company supports dialogue between cabinet members and the demonstrators, he wants to see them come to an end.

“We’re clearly in a position where we want to make sure we can get back to our main line in a safe fashion as quickly as possible, so we can serve both our Canadian customers and the Canadian economy,” said Finn.

Watch: Indigenous Services minister says ‘modest progress’ made in talks on rail blockade

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller  wrapped up daylong meetings with members of the Mohawk First Nation Saturday evening. 0:50

Meeting planned between hereditary chiefs, B.C., and Canada

Members of the Gitxsan First Nation temporarily took down a rail blockade near Hazelton, B.C., Thursday pending a proposed meeting with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would be available as soon as arrangements for the meeting are made. B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said he will represent the provincial government.

But while the talks have been represented as a joint meeting with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en chiefs to engage in dialogue on how the impasse over the pipeline development arose, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chief says leaders of his First Nation will only participate as witnesses.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting was proposed by the neighbouring Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en chiefs planned to honour the invitation.

“We have a willingness to move forward positively, we still have that in our hearts,” he said Sunday, while adding the Wet’suwet’en chiefs won’t budge on the pipeline.

“Our answer isn’t going to change. The pipeline won’t happen on our territory.”

Fraser said the meeting is scheduled to take place Monday in Victoria.

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline. More than two dozen protesters were arrested for refusing to obey it.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

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Anti-pipeline protesters block international bridge in Niagara Falls in support of Wet’suwet’en – CTV News

February 16th, 2020

TORONTO — About 200 people stopped traffic at Rainbow International Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ont. on Sunday afternoon in protest of what they call an “invasion of the Wet’suwet’en Nation” due to the proposed pipeline in British Columbia.

The demonstration started around 2 p.m. near Highway 420 and Stanley Avenue, at which point the protesters marched towards the entrance to the bridge, effectively blocking traffic from travelling into the United States.

Protesters held signs that said “what about the next generation,” “reconciliation is dead” and “stand with Wet’suwet’en.”

Speaking with CTV News Toronto, an event organizer said that while the Wet’suwet’en protests began as an environmental issue, “it goes above and beyond that.”

“This is about asserting Indigenous rights, asserting Indigenous sovereignty, to remind the government that they have a legal responsibility to us,” Sean Vanderklis said. “They can’t trample over our rights. They can’t come in and impose these injunctions without proper consultation.”

Vanderklis said that they chose to block the U.S.-Canada border crossing because the government has blocked access to their borders.

“We are asserting that we are sovereign and that we are capable of doing what they are capable of doing. If they are preventing people from coming in, we are going to prevent people from coming in.”

The demonstration was organized in four days, Vanderklis said, in response to reports that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was blocking reporters from Wet’suwet’en camps in B.C., preventing them from getting first-hand accounts.

The second issue is self-determination, Vanderklis added, saying that the band council system was thrust upon Indigenous People.

“Get back to the table and properly negotiate with Wet’suwet’en people,” he said. “We want the freedom to choose.”

Protest, Niagara Falls

Sunday’s protest comes a day after hundreds of people blocked westbound and northbound trains from travelling through Macmillan Yard in Vaughan.

The group, who said they were conducting the protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, was served an injunction by Canadian National Railway police, but a spokesperson told CTV News Toronto the document was set on fire.

blockade, Vaughan rail yard

Demonstrations have erupted across the country after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) moved into the Wet’suwet’en territory and arrested pipeline protesters. A blockade near a rail line in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory, near Belleville, was erected more than a week ago.

The protest has caused significant disruptions for travellers using VIA Rail and CN rail has said they don’t feel it is safe to operate trains so close to the blockade.

The main point of contention for protesters is the fact that the route for the Coastal GasLink pipeline goes through Wet’suwet’en territory. While Coastal GasLink has agreements with elected band councils along the route, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have not provided consent for the pipeline to be built.

The hereditary chiefs argue that band councils only have authority over reserve land.

Earlier in the day, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said that there has been “modest progress” following discussions with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation on Saturday. He also said that he doesn’t believe sending in police to break up the Tyendinaga blockade will be effective.

“My advice to my colleagues is let’s make sure we get to a peaceful solution. That involves dialogue,” he said.

Traffic coming into Canada from the United States is not impacted by the protest.

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Canadians already quarantined on cruise ship in Japan to be isolated for another 2 weeks at home – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

Canadians on board a cruise ship currently under quarantine in Japanese waters have been provided an escape route, after the Canadian government announced it plans to bring them home due to the “extraordinary circumstances” faced by passengers.

But the offer comes with a catch — those evacuated from the Diamond Princess will have to spend another two weeks in isolation on Canadian soil to make sure that they don’t carry the coronavirus that is currently spreading through Asia.

The decision raises questions about whether the government is being over-zealous in its use of quarantine, as the passengers were set to be released this Wednesday if they passed a final health check.

From quarantine to quarantine

Would-be evacuees had mixed reactions immediately after learning the news, with some saying the quarantine added a sour note to the otherwise sweet development.

“Well, you know, it’s not OK, but it’s better than here,” passenger Trudy Clement said. “We’ll be home.”

She said the evacuation gives her something to look forward to after weeks aboard a ship she previously described as a “luxurious prison.”

WATCH | Not looking forward to another 2 weeks of isolation:

Paul Mirko of Richmond, B.C., says he and his wife have already tested negative for coronavirus on the Diamond Princess. 0:37

“The only hurdle we’ve got to cross now is they’re swabbing everybody,” Clement said. “So as long as neither one of us comes up positive, we’ll be on that plane.”

Paul Mirko, a Richmond, B.C., resident, said he’s not happy about swapping one quarantine for another, but that he doesn’t have much choice in the matter.

“We feel forced to do this under duress,” said Mirko. “To have to endure another 14 days and possibly not have to go outside is very irksome and I feel quite upset over the whole thing.”

Mirko questioned the utility of the quarantine and said that neither himself nor his wife, Kayoko, have shown any symptoms over the past two weeks while under quarantine. 

Thousands of passengers have been stuck in their cabins since the Japanese government forced the Diamond Princess into quarantine on Feb. 3 off Yokohama, a city south of Tokyo, including up to 255 Canadians, according to Global Affairs Canada. 

Infectious disease experts criticized the decision to quarantine the ship as doing more harm than good.

So far, 355 people on the cruise ship have contracted the illness caused by the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, including 15 Canadians. Those infected represent the largest cluster of cases outside of China, according to the World Health Organization.

Canadians from the Diamond Princess cruise ship will be quarantined for 14 days at a hotel on the grounds of the NAV Centre, a conference centre in Cornwall, Ont. (Supplied by NAV Canada)

‘Extraordinary circumstances’

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances facing our citizens on the Diamond Princess, we are taking action to return Canadians home from Japan, while ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus,” said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Phillippe Champagne.  

The repatriated Canadians will be flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario — where several hundred other Canadians are isolated after being evacuated from Wuhan, China — before being transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., where they will be quarantined for another 14 days.

Global Affairs Canada said passengers will be screened for signs of the coronavirus before being allowed to board the plane out of Japan. Those who have symptoms will be transferred to the Japanese health-care system.

Dr. Ross Upshur, a physician and researcher who studies public health ethics at the University of Toronto, said the government’s decision raises questions about the use of quarantines.

Upshur said the fact that the WHO has declared a public health emergency of international concern doesn’t necessitate that the rights of individuals be completely overturned.

“I would want to know what risk information has occurred and has been found out that necessitates an additional 14 days quarantine, when they were 24 or 48 hours now away from completing their quarantine,” said Upshur.

He said there may be precautionary reasons for extending the quarantine of the returning Canadians, but that this needs to be clearly communicated.

Upshur said, if the quarantine is necessary, it’s important for the government to ensure proper supports for those in isolation because of the known psychological harms caused by such restrictive measures.

WATCH | Doctor questions need for another quarantine:

Canadians aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship face another 14 days in isolation once they are repatriated. 5:51

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Rail blockades to lead to shortages of propane and consumer goods, 2 national groups say – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

Two national organizations are warning that there could be shortages of propane and consumer goods in Canada if the current rail blockades continue.

Spokespeople for the Canadian Propane Association and the Retail Council of Canada said on Sunday that they are concerned and frustrated in particular about the impact of the blockade near Belleville, Ont. on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory that has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada. 

The blockade entered in its 11th day on Sunday. CN Rail has obtained a court injunction to end the protest, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not yet enforced it.

Similar blockades across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, with pressure mounting on the federal government to bring them to an end. The protests are in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern B.C.

Nathalie St-Pierre, president and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association, said there is already rationing of propane in Atlantic Canada, Quebec is thinking about rationing the fuel, and there are long wait lines for trucks to be loaded with propane in Ontario.

“Obviously, there are some issues if nothing is being transported by rail,” St-Pierre said. “Thank goodness the winter is pretty mild at this time. The demand is a bit softer than usual.”

In Ontario, there is still access to propane through Sarnia, Ont. by pipeline, but then the propane has to be transported by rail or by truck. There are wait times of eight to 10 hours in Sarnia for trucks to be loaded with propane, she said. Trucks from other provinces are going to Sarnia because they are not receiving shipments. 

She said the waiting times are “critical” and not what she would consider “normal.”

St-Pierre said there are not enough trucks to sustain the demand for propane. The fuel is used in commercial, institutional and residential settings, she said. Forty per cent of Canada’s propane consumption is in Ontario.

A barrier and a fire remain after protesters blockaded trains at Macmillan Yard in Toronto, on Saturday. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Thousands of Canadians use propane to heat their homes, while many businesses and industries use it in their operations. Farmers use to keep livestock warm in barns, for example. Many services, including police, school buses and taxis, use it as a transportation fuel.

“They are talking about continuing the dialogue. But at the same time, and from probably everyone’s perspective, you have to lift the blockades. You can have the dialogue, but at this time, I think the point was made,” she said.

“I don’t think they need to hold all of the Canadian economy hostage and not being able to function. The pressure is mounting.”

Superior Propane, a Mississauga based company, said in a news release last week that it is predicting “critical supply shortages” of propane in Central and Eastern Canada if the blockades continue. 

Karl Littler, senior vice president, public affairs, of the Retail Council of Canada, said there will be shortages of household products and consumer goods if the blockades continue. Such goods could include personal hygiene products, infant formula, both cleaning and sanitary products. There is also concern about the shipping of fresh food.

Littler said the blockades affect finished products ready to be put on store shelves and raw materials needed for manufacturing.

Banners hang on a fence as protesters stage a blockade of the rail line at Macmillan Yard in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

“We are concerned about it,” Littler said. “There is an inability to move goods cross country through the various choke points. It’s of major concern to retail merchants. It both interrupts the flow of retail ready goods and hampers the manufacturing process for Canadian manufacturing.”

Littler said the council respects the right of people to engage in peaceful protest, but said injunctions have been issued and not all have been enforced. The blockades have implications for the health and safety of Canadians, he added.

“Obviously, we support the right to peaceful protest,” he said. “Our primary concern is, the longer these blockades drag on, the more there is a risk that food and consumer goods will not get through to retail outlets, and obviously, that then affects the daily consumption that Canadians need.” 

The council, which represents 45,000 storefronts in Canada, has contacted the federal, Ontario and B.C. governments about the issue.
 

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Trudeau holds cabinet talks as Wet’suwet’en solidarity rail blockades continue – Global News

February 16th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in talks over the weekend with federal cabinet ministers as protesters opposed to a pipeline project in British Columbia continued to halt train service across parts of the country.

Trudeau’s spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said Sunday the prime minister had already spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Gagnon said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also briefed Trudeau about his hours-long meeting Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation near Belleville, Ont., where a rail blockade has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.

READ MORE: Rail blockades must be resolved ‘the right way,’ Indigenous Services minister says

Gagnon did not reveal what Miller told the prime minister, and said the government would provide updates as they become available.

Story continues below advertisement

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades, which have been erected to protest the Coastal GasLink project in northern B.C., which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.

Tyendinaga Chief Donald Maracle said he was not involved in Saturday’s talks and declined comment. Members of the First Nation at the blockade declined comment.

Miller said in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson on Sunday that at the end of Saturday’s meeting “a bit of confidence” had been built.

“This is something that’s fluid, and is moving on an hourly basis,” Miller said. “But we remain committed and engaged to resolve this in a peaceful way.”

1:51Face-to-face meetings begin as nation-wide protests grind rail traffic to a halt

Face-to-face meetings begin as nation-wide protests grind rail traffic to a halt

After meeting with members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nation on Saturday, Miller said “modest progress” was made, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

“We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There’s a lot more work to be done,” he said.

Miller said the focus of the discussions was on the natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia and is opposed by their hereditary chiefs. But he said other issues arose as well, without going into detail on what else was raised.

Story continues below advertisement

2:22Demonstrators block rail lines in Wet’suwet’en solidarity protest

Demonstrators block rail lines in Wet’suwet’en solidarity protest

“The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday, they’ve been present in this community for hundreds of years.”

Members of the Gitxsan First Nation temporarily took down a rail blockade near Hazelton, B.C., Thursday pending a proposed meeting with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments.

READ MORE: Minister wraps up meeting with Mohawk First Nation members over blockades

On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would be available as soon as arrangements for the meeting are made. B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said he will represent the provincial government.

But while the talks have been represented as a joint meeting with the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en chiefs to engage in dialogue on how the impasse over the pipeline development arose, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chief says leaders of his First Nation will only participate as witnesses.

3:27Indigenous Services Minister says message from Mohawk First Nation is ‘one of peace’

Indigenous Services Minister says message from Mohawk First Nation is ‘one of peace’

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting was proposed by the neighbouring Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en chiefs planned to honour the invitation.

“We have a willingness to move forward positively, we still have that in our hearts,” he said Sunday, while adding the Wet’suwet’en chiefs won’t budge on the pipeline.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our answer isn’t going to change. The pipeline won’t happen on our territory.”

READ MORE: Indigenous land conflicts to persist unless sovereignty addressed, Wilson-Raybould says

Blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, including GO Transit services between Toronto and Barrie being affected on Saturday.

CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration near Belleville on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.

The company obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.

1:45Demonstrators opposed to Coastal GasLink pipeline project target Vancouver rail lines

Demonstrators opposed to Coastal GasLink pipeline project target Vancouver rail lines

An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline. More than two dozen protesters were arrested for refusing to obey it.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.

–With files from Global News and Canadian Press reporters Salmaan Farooqui in Tyendinaga, Ont., and Amy Smart in Vancouver.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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B.C.’s population grew by 70,000 last year – Vancouver Sun

February 16th, 2020

Surrey leads B.C.’s population growth with 16,382 new residents last year, an increase of 2.9 per cent

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum credits the SkyTrain extension for part of his city’s population growth last year. HANDOUT / PNG

The population of B.C. continues to grow and it’s the city of Surrey leading the way.

B.C.’s population rose by more than 70,000 people last year, hitting 5,071,336 as of July 1, 2019 according to B.C. Statistics’ 2019 population estimates. This is an increase of 1.7 per cent over 2018.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said he wasn’t surprised to see that B.C. Stats had pegged growth at 2.9 per cent in his city, which was the largest hike in the number of residents year over year of any single B.C. community, at 16,382 people.

“We thought we were growing at a rate of 1,000 a month but it’s more like 1,400 a month,” he said.

“We see growth as a good thing, as long as we keep up the infrastructure,” he said. “We recognized that we would have this growth and we got out in front of it.”

He said improvements in infrastructure includes the recently announced SkyTrain extension and the Pattullo Bridge repairs and, mentioning his pet project, the creation of “our own city police department.”

He said the city has three new ice rinks, a new community centre in Clayton and more than a dozen new schools. However, controversially, it has put some projects on hold to help fund the switch to a municipal police force.

The city has been building “a lot of affordable housing” and five to six modular buildings are in the works to provide housing for the homeless.

The Vancouver Island communities of Langford, Duncan and Colwood were the three fastest-growing large municipalities from 2018 to 2019. Langford grew 5.2 per cent between July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019, or almost 2,100 people, Duncan by 3.7 per cent or 193 people, and Colwood by three per cent or 546 people, according to the provincial agency’s population estimates.

Half of the top 10 fastest-growing B.C. communities with a population of 5,000 or more were on Vancouver Island, including View Royal (2.5 per cent or 284 people) and Sooke (also 2.5 per cent or 357 people).

The other five in the top 10 growing communities were Whistler (2.9 per cent or 391), Surrey (also 2.9 per cent or 16,382), Chilliwack (2.6 per cent or 2,387), New Westminster (2.1 per cent or 1,631) and Merritt (also 2.1 per cent or 156).

The municipalities with the largest drops in population were Squamish, at a 2.9 per cent drop or 614 people, Kitimat (2.1 per cent, or 176 people) and Pitt Meadows, which lost 163 people (0.8 per cent of its population).

“When we saw the numbers, we called B.C. Stats to understand their methodology,” said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “The evidence we have on the ground would suggest that we haven’t shrunk.”

She said residential vacancy rates are close to zero and local businesses are doing well.

“The real estate market has slowed somewhat but the new buildings are still being built,” she said.

She said B.C. Stats explained that it changed the data collection that relies on income tax returns, which could skew the numbers by not recording dependents or spouses if only one person in the household works.

B.C. Statistics didn’t return a request for comment.

Similarly in Pitt Meadows, Mayor Bill Dingwall said he couldn’t understand the slight dip in population because “anecdotally, we’re seeing a lot more cars on our streets.”

He said the loss in residents could be explained by the temporary loss of 32 townhouses in a building that was closed and is being replaced by a building with 220 units.

And he said official population figures also wouldn’t necessarily capture children returning to live with their parents or elderly parents coming to live with their children.

“I’m not really worried about those numbers showing us down 0.08 per cent,” he said. “By the end of 2020 (when the new townhouses get built), it will be a different story.”

Overall, almost 40,000 of new residents between 2018 and 2019 moved into the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

The fastest growing regional districts in the same time period were the Fraser Valley, at 1.2 per cent, and the Central Okanagan, at 1.9 per cent.

The biggest hikes, percentage-wise, were in the towns under 5,000, led by Sun Peaks Mountain (14.1 per cent), Tahsis (8.6 per cent) and Tofino (7.1 per cent). The two smaller municipalities with the largest drops were Port Clements (down 7.1 per cent) and Port Edward (down 4.7 per cent).

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Demonstrators gather at Confederation Bridge to back Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

About two dozen demonstrators with flags and signs gathered at the P.E.I. side of the Confederation Bridge on Sunday afternoon in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The demonstrators are set up on a median at the road leading to the bridge. While traffic is slowing down, vehicles are able to get through.

P.E.I. RCMP are on scene. However, they say the demonstration has been peaceful and their presence for now is to help direct traffic.

Kyler Peters, from Lennox Island First Nation, is one of the demonstrators. He said he wanted to take part in the growing movement.

He said the initial goal was to stop transport trucks, not passenger vehicles, but it wasn’t doable given the number of demonstrators.

“We are not here to have the people against us, just the Canadian government and companies,” he said.  

Peters said some people plan to spend the night at the bridge and stay until Monday afternoon. 

RCMP are on scene at the demonstration in Borden-Carleton. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Opposition to Coastal GasLink

Sunday’s event follows a gathering of about a hundred demonstrators at Province House in Charlottetown on Saturday afternoon.

Demonstrations have cropped up across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on their territory in northern British Columbia.

RCMP enforced a B.C. Supreme Court injunction and made a number of arrests last week, sparking demonstrations across the country.

The conflict revolves around a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline and an assertion by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs that no pipelines can be built through their traditional territory without their consent. (Submitted by Patricia Bourque)

Representatives from 20 First Nations along the pipeline route —  including the elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en —  signed agreements with Coastal GasLink consenting to the project. However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those councils were established by the Indian Act and only have authority over reserve lands.

Members of the Mohawk First Nation in eastern Ontario were into their 10th day of protest Saturday in support of the hereditary chiefs. The blockade, near Belleville, prompted CN Rail to close its Eastern Canadian freight train network, and Via Rail has cancelled passenger trains nationwide because of demonstrations taking place along or on railway tracks.

More from CBC P.E.I. 

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Americans to fly home from coronavirus-hit cruise; China says new cases slowing – CBC.ca

February 16th, 2020

U.S. officials in hazmat suits boarded a cruise liner on Sunday to fly home Americans quarantined for two weeks off Japan, while China said measures such as locking down megacity Wuhan had at last slowed the pace of new coronavirus cases.

After being held on board the Diamond Princess since Feb. 3, American passengers were told to get ready for Sunday evening charter flights home from the cruise liner, which accounts for around half of all confirmed coronavirus cases outside China.

Canadian, Italian, South Korean and Hong Kong passengers were expected to follow, after their governments also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

On Saturday, the Canadian government said it was sending a chartered plane to repatriate the Canadian passengers who are not showing symptoms. They have not heard when the plane will arrive and some say they are frustrated at news that they will be cooped up for an additional two weeks after they return home.

“They haven’t told us exactly when they’re going to come … so if they are coming, we hope they come earlier, because the conditions here are extremely serious,” said Jennifer Lee of Vancouver, who’s on the Diamond Princess with her husband.

Japan Self-Defence Force personnel walk past the Diamond Princess cruise ship as it remains in quarantine at Daikoku Pier in Yokohama on Sunday. The United States has become the first country to repatriate citizens on the ship, where more than 350 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Fifteen Canadian passengers, out of the 255 initially confined to their cabins, have contracted the virus and at least three have been hospitalized. Those who are transported back to Canada will be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

‘Uncharted territory’ for health quarantines

The aircraft will travel to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., where the Canadians will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ont., for the period of quarantine.

“I think we’re in completely uncharted territory with respect to the use of quarantine,” said Dr. Ross Upshur of  the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“If we are asking people to basically suspend their democratically taken-for-granted rights of mobility, what are we doing to support them?”

WATCH | A Canadian on the ship says the airlift is ‘too much, too late’:

Paul Marko of Richmond, B.C., says he and his wife have already tested negative for coronavirus on the Diamond Princess. 0:37

American passenger Matthew Smith said he and his wife were not taking the flights, because the 14-day quarantine for the ship is set to end on Wednesday. The U.S. evacuees will be taken to Travis Air Force Base in California, with some continuing to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where they will have to undergo another quarantine.

Another drop in number of new cases

Seventy new cases were confirmed on board the Diamond Princess on Sunday, bringing the total on the ship to 355, the largest cluster of cases outside mainland China.

Within China, authorities reported 2,009 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, down from more than 2,600 new cases the previous day. China’s National Health Commission said the tally marked a drop in new cases for the third straight day.

The new cases brought the total to 68,500 in mainland China, with 1,665 deaths, including 143 reported on Sunday. Outside China, more than 500 cases have been confirmed, mostly of people who travelled from Chinese cities, with five deaths. There have been eight cases of the virus in Canada, five in B.C. and three in Ontario.

Chinese Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the slowing rate of new cases was proof that curbs on travel and other drastic measures were having an impact at last: “The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing,” Mi told reporters.

The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central province of Hubei, has presented the ruling Communist Party with a huge challenge.

Its response has included putting Hubei and its capital Wuhan — a city of 11 million people — on virtual lockdown. Restrictions were tightened further in Hubei on Sunday with companies told to stay shut until further notice.

Five people have died after being infected outside mainland China, with the most recent fatalities in France and Japan last week and Taiwan’s first reported death from COVID-19 on Sunday. Taiwan also reported two new cases, raising its total to 20.

Xi’s early response raises questions 

A recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has been published by state media indicates for the first time that he was leading the response to a new coronavirus outbreak from early on in the crisis.

The publication of the Feb. 3 speech was an apparent attempt to demonstrate that the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the beginning, but also opens Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects the novel coronavirus prevention and control work at Anhuali Community in Beijing on Feb. 10. (Xinhau/Reuters)

In the speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the coronavirus on Jan. 7 and ordered the shutdown that began on Jan. 23 of cities at the epicentre of the outbreak. His remarks were published by state media late Saturday.

“On Jan. 22, in light of the epidemic’s rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people,” he told a meeting of the party’s standing committee, its top body.

Xi’s role was muted in the early days of the epidemic, which has grown into one of the biggest political challenges of his seven-year tenure.

The disclosure of his speech indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity weeks before such dangers were made known to the public. It was not until late January that officials said the virus can spread between humans and public alarm began to rise.

Trust in the government’s approach to outbreaks remains fractured after the SARS epidemic of 2002 and 2003, which was covered up for months.

The COVID-19 outbreak began in December in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, which has the bulk of infections and deaths. On Jan. 23, Wuhan became the first city to impose an unprecedented halt on outbound transportation, since expanded to other cities with a combined population of more than 60 million.

Authorities in Hubei and Wuhan faced public fury over their initial handling of the epidemic. The anger reached a peak earlier this month following the death of Li Wenliang, a young doctor who was reprimanded by local police for trying to spread a warning about the virus. He ended up dying of the disease himself.

In apparent response, the Communist Party’s top officials in Hubei and Wuhan were dismissed and replaced last week.

Even as authorities have pledged transparency through the current outbreak, citizen journalists who challenged the official narrative with video reports from Wuhan have disappeared and are believed to be detained.

The fall in new cases follows a spike of more than 15,000 on Thursday, when Hubei began to include cases that had been diagnosed by a doctor but not yet confirmed by laboratory tests.

Malaysia ends transit of cruise ship passengers

Malaysia said it would not allow any more passengers from another cruise ship to transit the country after an 83-year-old American woman who left the MS Westerdam last week in Cambodia tested positive for the virus, twice. In addition, Malayasia has said it would bar any cruise ships from docking if they come through any Chinese port.

Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, on Sunday said a second test carried out on the woman and her husband yielded the same results.

She was among 145 passengers who flew from Cambodia to Malaysia on Friday. Her husband also had symptoms but tested negative for the virus. The Westerdam was turned away from four ports around Asia before Cambodia allowed it to dock in Sihanoukville late last week. The vessel was left wandering in the East China Sea after a stop in Hong Kong on Feb. 1.

Cambodia said earlier that all 1,455 passengers on the Holland America-operated ship had tested negative for the virus.

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