AFN, Trudeau call for calm in dispute over Coastal GasLink

John Crawford, The Canadian Press

An emergency debate will be held in the House of Commons tonight to consider the blockades set up in support of Wet'suwet'en leaders opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in their traditional territory south of Houston and Smithers.
The federal New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois successfully lobbied Speaker Anthony Rota for the debate.
It will allow MPs to discuss the stoppage of rail traffic in eastern Canada and on-again-off-again blockades at roads, bridges and ports elsewhere.
This morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons to address the crisis -- and appealed for calm as he pledged to do whatever is necessary to resolve the dispute.


Trudeau said this is a critical moment for the country and for our future, and told the Commons that recognizes that people are upset with the blockades that have gone up in support of the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs, who oppose the pipeline project.

He says it is past time for this situation to be resolved, but adds that finding a solution will not be simple.

Trudeau says he is formally extending his hand in partnership and trust and calling for peaceful, honest dialogue with willing partners.

Later, Trudeau held a meeting with the leaders of the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party to brief them on the government's efforts to end blockades paralyzing rail service.
The Green Party's Elizabeth May says Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer disqualified himself based on his statements in the House of Commons this morning so he wasn't invited to the meeting.
She says it's very clear the government is working very hard to find solutions, but there is a long legacy of injustice to deal with that has crystallized around the opposition of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Scheer, meantime, doubled down on his stand against pipeline protesters this morning in Parliament, calling them radical activists -- and he called the prime minister's remarks"the weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history."  

Scheer has been calling on Trudeau to have the RCMP intervene to end the blockades, and has questioned the motivations of those participating in the protests.

He told the House that protests in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs are a warm-up act for upcoming battles against the Trans Mountain expansion project and the proposed Teck Frontier oilsands mine in northeastern Alberta. 

Earlier, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and other indigenous leaders held a news conference, and called for calm and constructive dialogue to ease tensions.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde says governments and industry need to give the time and space to work with the Wet'suwet'en.

Bellegarde says he has spoken with all parties involved to find a way forward.
He says it's vital that honest political activism not be criminalized.

And here in BC, provincial  Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser says he's hoping for a peaceful pause while some of the underlying issues can be discussed.
Fraser and his federal counterpart, Carolyn Bennett, say they want to meet with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, to address the matter.
"Discussions can take a long time and we've seen labour disputes with the province take a while to run their course; I'm hoping that we can get a period of calm here while we work on the dialogue about how to move forward while the Wet'suwet'en work on their governance issues internally and I think everyone needs that time," said Fraser, adding that the request came from both the federal and provincial governments, "and this will be the first time that that happens, so it may change the dynamics of the meetings."



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