Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in talks over the weekend with federal cabinet ministers as protesters opposed to a pipeline project in British Columbia continued to halt train service across parts of the country.
Trudeau's spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said Sunday the prime minister had already spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations.
Gagnon said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller also briefed Trudeau about his hours-long meeting Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation near Belleville, Ont., where a rail blockade has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada.
Gagnon did not reveal what Miller told the prime minister, and said the government would provide updates as they become available.
Government chooses dialogue over police intervention
Miller said during an appearance on Radio-Canada's political talk show Les coulisses du pouvoir on Sunday that the unrest and its impact on the economy amounted to a "national crisis."
He said he believes a peaceful resolution could be reached, and pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable to police intervention.
"We lived through it 30 years ago, when people went in, when police went in, there was a death," said Miller. "The question we should all be asking ourselves as Canadians is: What do we do as a nation? Do we favour the peaceful path, openness, dialogue, or do we do things the old way, which got us here in the first place and which won't end anything?"
"I choose the peaceful approach, the open approach, co-operation."
The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades, which have been erected in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline that crosses their territory in northern B.C. The pipeline is is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export project in Kitimat.
Tyendinaga Chief Donald Maracle said he was not involved in Saturday's talks and declined comment. Members of the First Nation at the blockade declined comment.
A spokesperson for Miller said he was not available for an interview on Sunday.
After meeting with members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nation on Saturday, Miller said "modest progress" was made, but he wouldn't elaborate.
"We talked openly, frankly, painfully at times, and sometimes with humour. There's a lot more work to be done," he said.
Miller said the focus of the discussions was on the natural gas pipeline in British Columbia that is opposed by the hereditary chiefs. But he said other issues arose as well, without going into detail on what else was raised.
"The underlying issues did not arrive yesterday; they've been present in this community for hundreds of years."
Watch: Indigenous Services minister says 'modest progress' made in talks on rail blockade
Meeting planned between hereditary chiefs, B.C., and Canada
Members of the Gitxsan First Nation temporarily took down a rail blockade near Hazelton, B.C., Thursday pending a proposed meeting with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would be available as soon as arrangements for the meeting are made. B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said he will represent the provincial government.
But while the talks have been represented as a joint meeting with the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en chiefs to engage in dialogue on how the impasse over the pipeline development arose, a Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chief says leaders of his First Nation will only participate as witnesses.
Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting was proposed by the neighbouring Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en chiefs planned to honour the invitation.
"We have a willingness to move forward positively, we still have that in our hearts," he said Sunday, while adding the Wet'suwet'en chiefs won't budge on the pipeline.
"Our answer isn't going to change. The pipeline won't happen on our territory."
Rail services disrupted
Blockades in support of the Wet'suwet'en across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, including GO Transit services between Toronto and Barrie which were affected on Saturday.
CN obtained a court injunction to end the demonstration near Belleville on Feb. 7, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced it.
The company obtained fresh injunctions to stop three new blockades established on its network on Saturday — two in Vaughan, Ont., and one in Vancouver.
An injunction in B.C. was enforced earlier this month by the RCMP to give Coastal GasLink access to a work site for the pipeline. RCMP made more than two dozen arrests in attempting to enforce the injunction.
Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route. However, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area and say band councils only have authority over reserve lands.