RCMP caught between a rock and a hard place

That was certainly quite a sight at the BC Legislature this week, as protesters prevented MLAs from leaving or entering the building for the traditional Throne Speech. Protesters also blocked major intersections n downtown Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon.

In the end, the protesters failed to prevent the Throne Speech (empty as it was) from being delivered, and the long tradition of meaningless speeches can carry on.

However, as blockades and protests go on across the country, you can’t say the same thing about the nation’s economy. Canada’s economy depends on goods getting to market, goods from liquid natural gas to cheese.

And the protesters have latched onto quite a technique in disruption as they are blockading rail routes. CN Rail warned this week that they would have to shut down significant portions of its fright and passenger rail network due to rail blockades in Ontario and British Columbia.

At the heart of the protests is opposition to a Coastal Gas Link pipeline near Smithers. The pipeline has cleared all legal hurdles and is supported by the NDP government.

But the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say they have not given permission for their traditional territory to be crossed. They assert title to a 22,000 square kilometre swathe of traditional territory. Protesters across the country are standing with the hereditary chiefs.

But the situation is further complicated by the fact that the Wet’suwet’en First Nation is not together in protest. Five of the six elected councils from the Wet’suwet’en, as well as 15 other elected first nation councils have signed off on the pipeline. The councils believe the pipeline will bring much needed economic opportunity to their lands. But the hereditary chiefs say the elected councils only have authority over reserve lands, not all the traditional territory.

Prime Minister Trudeau weighed in this week, saying that while he respects rights to peaceful protest, there is also a rule of law that must be respected.

But it is a very difficult balancing act for police. If the RCMP attempt to move protesters off key transportation routes, they risk physical confrontation. Nothing will get protesters across the country more riled up than any type of physical confrontation between protesters and police.

The Jason Kenneys of the world can stamp their feet and demand that the rule of law be followed.

“This is not about indigenous people. It’s not about carbon emissions. It’s about a hard-left ideology that is, frankly opposed to the entire modern industrial economy. It’s about time that our police services demonstrated that this is a country that respect the rule of law,” Kenney said this week.

Those are easy words to say to fire up an already fired up Alberta population on energy issues. But if you are on the front line, the situation is fraught with peril.

But Kenney is not wrong that allowing the protesters to continue to disrupt the flow of goods across the country, and thus harming the economy, is not a situation that can be allowed to continue.

Rock meet hard place. And occupying that difficult spot is the RCMP.

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