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As the Kahnawake railway blockade diminishes, supporters are demanding respect for indigenous rights

The railway blockade is about to fall in Kahnawake, almost a month after being erected in support of the hereditary leaders of Wet’suwet in British Columbia.

As of February 8, the camp had blocked both freight and commuter trains on the Canadian Pacific railway line that crosses Mohawk territory south of Montreal.

The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon after supporters marched through the streets with a banner that said, “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”

Roxann Whitebean, a director based in Kahnawake, said the decision to lift the blockade should be viewed as a “good faith to all Canada” message.

“Depending on how Canada is moving forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands are no longer violated. We will not step back until these standards are met,” he said.

Roxann Whitebean, writer and director Mohawk, turned to journalists in the middle of the highway. He said that indigenous rights must be respected. 02:06

He said the camp will be moved to a green space near Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked link between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.

“We want fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay as long as Wet’suwet’en needs us,” said Whitebean.

“We will closely monitor the situation of Wet’suwet’en and other indigenous communities.”

Highway 132 near Mercier Bridge was briefly blocked after the Kahnawake barricade was dismantled on Thursday. (Ivanoh Demers / Radio-Canada)

Another barricade remains in place in Listuguj, Que., Where Mi’kmaq activists have blocked a railway line linking the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick.

Since then, more blocks have fallen across Canada.

Over the weekend, the heads and representatives of Wet’suwet’en from the Federal and B.C. governments have announced they have reached a draft agreement on some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would cross traditional land.

The government of Premier Quebec François Legault had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, claiming that it was damaging the province’s economy.

Supporters of the Kahnawake blockade say they want to respect indigenous rights. (Ivanoh Demers / Radio-Canada)

In a statement on its website, the Kahnawake Mohawk Council claimed that the blockade was “a sincere and peaceful expression of support” for the leaders of Wet’suwet’en.

“Even in 2020, there seems to be a crisis for governments to really commit,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.

“We have supported a meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and security for all people.”

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