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lndigenous relations ministers request meeting with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to end rail blockades

Last Updated Feb 18, 2020 at 8:05 am PDT

FILE - Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett is shown in Gatineau, Que., in a September 11, 2018 file photo. A long-awaited settlement agreement to provide financial compensation to survivors of Canada's Indian day schools is now open for applications.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Carolyn Bennett and Scott Fraser request meeting with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

'Blockades continue to be a significant challenge'

Ministers agree dialogue is the best and preferred way to deal with issues

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The federal and provincial indigenous relations ministers have sent a joint letter to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, asking for a meeting to discuss peaceful resolutions to blockades across the country.

Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-indigenous relations, and Scott Fraser, B.C. minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, met Monday in Victoria and afterwards issued a joint statement.

“There is no doubt that the blockades and other events of the past several weeks have been, and continue to be, a significant challenge,” they said.

“We agree that dialogue is the best and preferred way to deal with these issues. We share a deep commitment to relationships with Indigenous peoples based on affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. We acknowledge that this is a difficult time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and are determined to work with all our partners to find the solutions.

The ministers have sent a letter to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, requesting a meeting at the earliest opportunity, and are hopeful a process can be established for ongoing dialogue and action to address the blockades.

“Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet members also met Monday, in Ottawa, to discuss finding an end to the ongoing rail blockades, in opposition to Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Last week, officers arrested around 50 protesters for blocking the entrances to the Vancouver and Delta ports after a court order was granted.

West Coast Express service was halted Thursday afternoon and Friday morning due to anti-pipeline protests along the CP Rail tracks near Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam.

Protesters also set up blockades in other parts of the country, forcing Via Rail to cancel all scheduled trips across Canada, and CN Rail suspended service in eastern Canada.

Injunctions have been granted to CN to remove the blockades.