Saturday, September 23, 2023

William Watson: If anti-pipeline blockades continue much longer, we need to ask: Who governs Canada?

If blockades at Vancouver’s port and eastern rail lines continue much longer, Canadians will be asking: “Who governs Canada?” It has been clear for years that if the courts finally decide in favour of pipelines and other resource developments, opponents will take their opposition to construction sites and transportation nodes, as they are now doing.

Our governments have had ample time to plan for the current confrontation — to build up coal stocks, as it were. Have they made good use of their time? It doesn’t look like it. The federal transport minister has carefully pointed out that enforcement of any injunctions obtained against demonstrators is up to the relevant provincial police forces. (And do we really need a court to decide people aren’t allowed to blockade the railroads, highways and ports?)

The premier of Quebec, a province seldom shy about claiming jurisdiction, allowed as how he wasn’t so sure: there are transport issues involved and, you know, transport is federal … but in any case he was talking to Grand Chief Joe Norton of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, just across the Mercier Bridge from downtown Montreal, to see if something can’t be done about letting a commuter train resume its regular schedule and move 1,200 ordinary folk from the south shore to the city every day.

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