Bolder actions, words from protesters behind rail blockades

Fire lit under passing train

Protesters behind rail blockades in Quebec and Ontario ramped up their actions and rhetoric Wednesday as government officials accused them of compromising public safety.

In a video posted on the Real People's Media website, demonstrators in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., were shown standing on rail tracks as a CN Rail train approached Wednesday, then jumping out of the way at the last second.

Provincial police said a handful of protesters also lit fires near and on railway tracks at a secondary camp that remained in place after a raid on another, larger blockade earlier this week.

The latest disruptions were denounced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who called the protesters' actions unsafe.

"It is extremely concerning to see people endangering their own lives and the lives of others by trying to interfere with the trains," Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Francois Legault suggested provincial police had not moved in to dismantle a blockade on the Kahnawake Mohawk territory south of Montreal because those on the reserve are armed, potentially with assault rifles.

His comments, which came as protesters on the Mohawk territory south of Montreal reinforced a blockade that has been in place since Feb. 8, were rejected by the First Nation, which stressed the demonstration is a peaceful one.

Kenneth Deer, the secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, said the protesters are not armed and the suggestion that there are AK-47s at the site is "highly irresponsible and ludicrous."

Earlier in the day, Deer spoke out against a possible intervention by outside police, saying any efforts to forcibly remove the site would be seen as an "act of provocation and aggression that will exacerbate an already volatile situation."

"Ultimately, coercive state-sponsored force is the wrong way to make peace," Deer said in a statement.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador also took issue with Legault's statements, urging him to be more careful in discussing the issue.

"Premier Legault is making very dangerous and offensive comments by suggesting the presence of weapons in Kahnawake," AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said in a statement.

"He certainly did not consider the consequences of his words for community members who live with the memories of 30 years ago on a daily basis."

The rail company obtained an injunction on Tuesday to end the blockade, one of several such protests in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline cutting across their traditional territory.

Rail and road disruptions have continued in recent days after several high-profile blockades were dismantled by police in B.C. and Ontario earlier this week.

The agency responsible for a major commuter rail service covering much of southern Ontario said Wednesday it was not anticipating any of the delays and cancellations that brought trains to a standstill during the previous day's rush hour.

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