OTTAWA — Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said activists blocking intersections and rail lines need to “check their privilege” and stop standing in the way of resource development projects.
Several rail and road blockades have sprung up across the country this week in support of a protest against the Coastal Gas pipeline in Northern British Columbia. The blockades of several rail lines led to CN’s decision Thursday to close its eastern Canadian rail network, blocking freight traffic and potentially leading to layoffs.
That has also forced the closure of Via Rail routes right across the country.
Scheer said many of the protestors are out of touch with First Nation’s communities. The Coastal Gas project has been supported by elected band councils in the area, but is opposed by hereditary chiefs.
“They are missing out on the fact that the elected band councils support this project,” he said. “If we want to respect First Nations’ will on this, we should be supporting Coastal Gas.”
Scheer said he respects the rights of Indigenous protestors and believes reconciliation is important, but he argued many of the activists are not connected to Indigenous communities, but are using the issue to target energy projects.
“This is just a warm up act for fights like TMX and Tech Frontier and the end their goal is to shut down our energy sector.”
Many of the blockades are being led by Indigenous groups, including one near Belleville, Ont., which is the major cause of CN’s railway network closure.
Scheer said it is time for the federal government to get more involved in the protest including if necessary using the RCMP to end the blockades.
“It seems pretty simple to me. If you are a law enforcement agency, you should enforce the law,” he said. “We are talking about a large part of our economy, which is being held hostage.”
Scheer also called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not returning to Canada sooner to deal with the issue. Trudeau has been in Africa and Europe as part of the government’s effort to secure a UN Security Council seat, which Scheer said is a “vanity project.”
“He is missing an opportunity to show leadership.”
He said he supports completely everyone’s right to protest, but these blockades have moved beyond that.
“What they do not have the right to do is to shut down our railways and our ports.”