Canada hit by new rail, road barricades following arrests of indigenous protesters

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Protesters in Canada blocked train lines, Vancouver’s port entrance and at least one highway on Tuesday in response to the arrest of 10 indigenous activists when police dismantled a rail barricade in southern Ontario a day earlier.

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On Monday, police arrested some of the Tyendinaga Mohawk campaigners who had shut down the line in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en from British Columbia, who seek to stop construction of a gas pipeline over their land.

Demonstrators mounted a new rail blockade late on Monday night at a junction of three busy Canadian National Railway lines near Hamilton, southwest of Toronto, but left by about 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Tuesday, police said.

Hamilton police spokeswoman Jackie Penman said officers were inspecting the area, adding it was up to rail firms to decide when services would resume. The blockade closed four stations on Metrolinx’s GO Transit passenger line to Toronto from Hamilton.

Earlier in the day, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the impact of the blockades was unacceptable.

The standoff between authorities and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have been battling the gas line for a decade, has grown increasingly tense as aboriginal bands and climate activists across Canada take up their cause.

The protests are testing Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge to reconcile Canada with its indigenous groups, who face higher levels of poverty and violence and shorter life expectancies than the national average.

Many Canadians are growing frustrated, and that is giving a boost to Trudeau’s Conservative rivals, whose support is at 36% compared with 33% for the Liberals, according to a Nanos poll completed on Feb. 21 and published on Tuesday.

British Columbia police said they arrested 14 people overnight who were blocking a rail line west of New Hazelton, and a separate group has barricaded a major intersection near the Port of Vancouver’s main entrance.

Kanesatake Mohawk stopped traffic on Highway 344 in Quebec, and Kahnawake Mohawk blocked a Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd rail line south of Montreal.

That barricade “has severed vital rail connections and severely impacted CP’s operations, customers and the broader economy,” the company said in a statement.

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool