A blockade in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake that has halted rail traffic south of Montreal for more than three weeks has been dismantled.
The blockade came to an end quietly Thursday afternoon as protesters took down their camp, temporarily stopping highway traffic as they moved to a location away from the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.
The protest began Feb. 8 in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs after the RCMP moved into Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia to enforce an injunction against a blockade erected by pipeline opponents.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake praised the dedication of the protesters and said they will now be located beside Highway 138, near the foot of the Mercier Bridge leading to Montreal.
“Our decision is to relocate our fire to the green space in Kahnawake, away from the railway tracks,” Roxann Whitebean told reporters. “We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge to show the Wet’suwet’en need us to.”
The council said the action was a sincere and peaceful expression of support for the hereditary chiefs.
“I think everybody – all sides – are happy that this has happened. It took a while, but people have to realize that our processes aren’t always as fast as others,” said Joe Delaronde, a spokesman for the council. “What’s done is done, the solidarity remains, but the tracks are open and everyone is happy about that.”
A statement from the Mohawk longhouse, distributed by the protesters, called the removal of the blockade a gesture of good faith as the Wet’suwet’en people consider a draft agreement reached Sunday between their hereditary chiefs and senior Canadian officials.
“We want to allow the Wet’suwet’en to take the necessary time within their own community to make decisions,” Whitebean added. “Let this be a strong message and demonstration of good faith to all of Canada, we prefer a peaceful resolution and demand that Indigenous peoples’ rights be respected.”
Commuter and freight traffic along the line has been stopped since early February, forcing transit users to shuttle back and forth to Montreal by bus.
A spokeswoman for Exo, the commuter rail operator, said service will not resume until CP Rail has authorized use of the track.
Meanwhile, a private regional rail line in Quebec’s Gaspe region remained shut as activists maintained a blockade in the Mi’kmaq community of Listuguj.
That blockade, about 525 kilometres northeast of Quebec City by the New Brunswick border, has been up since Feb. 10.
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