Pipeline protesters block Freeland from entering Halifax City Hall
HALIFAX -- Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland ran headlong into pipeline protesters during a visit to Halifax on Wednesday afternoon.
Freeland was trying to get into City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Mike Savage, but supporters of Wet'suwet'en First Nation, who oppose a pipeline in British Columbia, wouldn't let her in.
Similar protests have shut down rail transport in central Canada, creating problems that could back up all the way to the East Coast.
Tuesday, demonstrators prevented trucks from entering or leaving Halifax's Fairview Cove container terminal, the largest event of its kind in the Maritimes so far.
"This is genocide," said a protester who identified herself as Michelle. "We've seen in our history, things like Oka, we've seen in Elsipogtog, we've seen even our grandmothers here at Mi'gma'gi were arrested for standing on the front lines for the Alton Gas resistance, and we're still going to court for that."
One of the truckers didn't understand why the protesters were at Fairview Cove, a container terminal.
"This protest, to me, has nothing to do with the port," said New Brunswick truck driver Marc Caron. "Because they don't carry oil."
That may be true, but it does carry freight, and with CN Rail threatening to shut down significant portions of its network in southern Ontario, the Port of Halifax is watching the situation closely, deeply concerned about what could happen if a short disruption turns into a long one.
"If the cargo stops moving by rail, what you have to keep in mind here in Halifax, is that we're a rail-based port," said Halifax Port Authority spokesman Lane Farguson. "Over 60 per cent of the cargo that's moving through those terminals never ever sees a Nova Scotia highway. It's loaded directly onto rail and shipped to inland markets."
If the cargo's not moving, the ships could stop coming, and getting them back could be difficult, if not impossible.
There are others watching the situation as well.
In a letter to the transport minister, a large chlorine maker expressed concerns its products wouldn't make it to municipal water systems across the country.
Halifax Water says it's not a direct customer, and it's got a good supply at the moment, but it's monitoring the situation.
For her part, Freeland eventually got inside for her meeting with the mayor, but with protests growing daily, she and other ministers had best prepare for an increasingly rough ride until the matter's dealt with.
Earlier Wednesday, the deputy prime minister met Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to talk about housing. There were pipeline protesters there as well.
Freeland made it clear she fully supports the right to protest, but she clearly wasn't happy about being blocked from entering City Hall.