Over the last few weeks as Canada has been dealing with the fallout from the Wet’suwet’en protests, we have seen a lot of political leaders doing the opposite of what they’ve been needed to do. For the Conservatives, we haven’t seen any constructive ideas come forward from them; all we’ve seen is yelling about ordering the RCMP in, something the government simply can’t do legally. On the NDP side, while we’ve seen some small constructive suggestions, like calling for a mediator like Senator Murray Sinclair to be brought in, we’ve also see them do the unhelpful by mirroring the Conservatives language on the RCMP, demanding that they be pulled out despite the fact that the Government can’t do that either.
All in all, these past few weeks have not been the brightest moment in the history of political leadership in this country. In a moment where these leaders could have stepped up to the plate and helped to find solutions, they mostly decided to play for political points and do the opposite. It’s been a growing frustration in this place for sure. But today an interesting story has come out from CBC.ca about something constructive that was being done in this case by the Government of Canada, one that actually was about finding solutions to the issues at hand:
I personally found this story very fascinating due to some of the language that the Conservatives had been using to defend their calls to send in the police. According to the CBC, “since last week, Canada’s two largest railways, CN and Canadian Pacific. have been quietly sharing their rail lines to transport essential supplies to communities in need.” The story goes onto state that this was “a very “rare” collaboration between the two rail giants, CN trains have been circumventing blockades using alternate routes — some through the U.S. — to continue deliveries to Quebec and Maritime communities facing shortages of essential goods such as propane, chemicals for water treatment facilities and animal feed.” The deal itself was kept a secret to help ensure that it worked, which seems like was probably a prudent thing to do in this matter.
For me, this story not only shines a light on the governments attempts to work within the situation and try to resolve it without the police or violence, unlike what others were calling for, but it also answers a few questions. We knew that all trains across the country were not stopped, that many lines were still opened. Heck when this all started there was a CN train derailment of oil tanker cars back in Northwestern Ontario, so that was as clear a sign as any that trains were running. Also, this story answered the question about what these rail companies were doing, especially given that for a few decades now they’ve had continent-wide networks. Both rail companies operate in both Canada and the US, and have connected rail networks that allow they to reach all across North America. So while the protest in Tyendinaga was caused big problems for that major rail line and it would stop some things like Via Rail, when it came to cargo and freight, CN has a wide network which should have allowed them to work around it. So for me one of the big questions I had all along was “why aren’t they using that network?”. Now it turns out they were using some of that, and CP’s as well.
Now this approach couldn’t completely deal with the issues created by these protests, but at least you can say that what the Liberal government did here, in helping CN and CP reroute trains, was a lot more productive and helpful in this very difficult situation than bellowing for the RCMP and OPP to be sent in. In tough situations, we expect our leaders to think outside the box to find solutions and approaches to help deescalate things. In this case to their credit, this Liberal government found one while the others didn’t.
While this story is interesting, it isn’t going to be a solution to the underlying problems in this story, but I don’t think that was the expectation. There is still work that needs to be done there and hopefully that will come. But in the meantime while I don’t agree with a lot that this government has done, I do appreciate that this government put forward a creative way to help lower the temperature on these protests and to help ensure that parts of the country received the goods and fuels they needed in these cold winter months. It’s only a small thing and a small move, but it’s far better than what other leaders have called for so far, which only would have escalated the situation out there.