'It's a possibility:' Kahnawake blockade could come down before Wet'suwet'en deal approved

A train blockade in Kahnawake that has forced the closure of a commuter rail line for weeks could be lifted before a tentative deal between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal government is approved.

"It's a possibility," said Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake secretary Kenneth Deer on Monday morning. "Anything is possible."

Deer said the community "is evaluating the situation and there are people wondering whether this is the appropriate time to stand down or if there should be continuing pressure so we can assist the Wet'suwet'en chiefs as much as we can."

A community meeting is planned for the Kahnawake Longhouse on Monday evening.

"We need to share information to make sure we all have the same information so we can make a good decision," said Deer. "There have been some positive things to come out of B.C. and some things that are not so positive. Everybody would like to know exactly what's going on over there."

A day earlier, land protectors in Kahnawake said they would continue occupying the rail line crossing on the territory south of Montreal blocking train traffic.

Deer said they want more clarification on the agreement between the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal government before making a final decision.

"It's a big decision to decide to take down the barricade or not, and they want to make sure they have everything before they make a decision," he said Sunday outside the entrance to the barricade, where Mohawk flags flew from a tent and pointed wooden shelter protected by low concrete barriers.

Deer, who said he's been in contact with hereditary chiefs, said there were good things that came out of the meeting in B.C., as well as "some things that were not so good."

He said the agreement includes discussions on who are custodians of the land, as well as a recognition of the hereditary chiefs, which he described as "significant."

"However, the pipeline is not resolved, and that a very big issue, not only for the Wet'suwet'en chiefs but for everybody," he said.

Kahnawake community members installed an improvised barricade on Feb. 12 in order to block the CP railway. This barricade was reinforced following the Ontario Provincial Police intervention to dismantle the barricade in the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga, Ont. on Feb. 24.

Commuter trains on the exo4 line, which connects Candiac and downtown Montreal, will still not be able to operate and users will have to continue to use buses for service. The Canadian Pacific Railway said in an email to The Canadian Press on Thursday that "this barricade cuts vital rail links to the Atlantic provinces and the United States."

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2020.