First Nations rally blocks VIA rail lines

Protestors look to raise awareness about missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Belleville

A group of protestors blockaded the VIA Rail lines on Wednesday.
A group of protestors blockaded the VIA Rail lines on Wednesday.

VIA Rail’s train services between Kingston and Belleville were disrupted on Wednesday after a group of activists stood on the tracks to raise public awareness about missing or murdered First Nations women.

Many of the organizers were from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Southern Ontario.

The blockage was organized in Maryville, ON, which sits between Belleville and Kingston.

Protestors began to gather in the area around 9:30 pm on Tuesday, and remained there until Wednesday evening, according to the Ontario Provincial Police.

The rally aimed to draw attention to Canadian Aboriginal women who have been murdered or have gone missing in recent years.

On March 7, the report from the MPs who sit on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women didn’t require the federal government to head a specific inquiry on the disappearances.

Tyendinaga resident Karahkwinehtha attended the protest on Wednesday, an event she labeled a “call to action”.

“We were hoping to raise awareness and support,” she said. “We wanted to make sure the issue of [missing First Nation women] was heard.”

She said their main goal was to bring more attention to the issue, and not to create a “protest”.

“The word protest sometimes comes with such negativity, and we’re just really trying to curve the way people look at it, so they’re not looking at us but they’re looking at the issue,” she said.

Karahkwinehtha added that many of those attending were non-indigenous.

“We had non-indigenous women there, we had non-indigenous men, simply to support the issue and that was exactly what we were looking for,” she said.

She said she was invited to participate through a “call to action” from an individual she wouldn’t name.

“We have support from Amnesty International, we have support from the United Nations, we have support from coast to coast and worldwide,” she said.

“Support can come in so many forms. This was the action we chose to use today, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop sharing information, exchanging information and sharing whatever we have,” she added.

The federal government has faced several requests for an inquiry into those missing, or murdered. Most recently the murder of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, an Inuk women from Saint Mary’s University, has brought attention to the issue.

Several train travelers were disgruntled when their trains were either delayed or canceled. VIA Rail sent several buses to pick up passengers and take them to their destinations. CBC reported that some passengers said they were “inconvenienced and uncomfortable” due to their bus ride.

Luke Reaume, ArtSci ’14, said he had planned to take a train to Toronto, but was forced to take a bus instead due to the blockade. However, he said he isn’t on either side of the issue.

“It was obviously an inconvenience for me, along with the hundreds of people who were coming from as far as Montreal, some of which were on the bus I had to take to get around the blockage,” Reaume said.

“However, there are always two sides to every story and that has to be considered by those who complain about such events.”

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