The latest on protests across Canada in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia (All times Eastern):

1:20 p.m. ET

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Canada's minister of Crown-Indigenous relations says she is looking forward to a meeting this afternoon with hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation.

Carolyn Bennett made the comments at the Smithers airport after arriving on a flight from Vancouver.

She says it's very important to "reaffirm" the interest of senior levels of government in speaking with the First Nation about title and rights.

Today's meeting is being held in Smithers where the office of the hereditary house chiefs is located, and meetings are scheduled to continue Friday.

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12:26

British Columbia's minister in charge of Indigenous relations says he is on his way to meet with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and his federal counterpart.

Scott Fraser says in a statement that he is pleased to have been able to arrange talks with the chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

He says he is going to the meeting in the town of Smithers with a commitment to respectful dialogue and is focused on finding a peaceful path forward.

Fraser met with the chiefs early this month but they were unable to reach an agreement over the pipeline impasse.

The RCMP enforced an injunction against Wet'suwet'en protesters after the talks ended, triggering a wave of solidarity protests that has halted rail traffic in parts of Canada.

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11:55 a.m. ET

The parliamentary secretary for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is calling for all levels of government to temper their words when discussing the ongoing protests.

Joel Lightbound's comments in Ottawa come a day after Quebec Premier Francois Legault suggested people on a reserve where one of the protests is taking place are armed.

Lightbound declined to comment specifically on Legault's comments but says everyone would benefit from using calming language.

He says talks between the federal and British Columbia governments and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs later today are a positive sign.

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11:30 a.m. ET

Canada's transport minister says the meeting set for this afternoon between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and British Columbia governments is very important.

Marc Garneau says both sides have been seeking the meeting for some time.

He describes it as an important starting point for the shared goal of peacefully resolving conflict over the planned natural gas pipeline crossing traditional Wet'suwet'en territory.

The meeting is set to get underway in Smithers, B.C., later today.

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11:10 ET

The federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations is on her way to a meeting with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in Smithers, B.C.

Carolyn Bennett posted a message on social media this morning confirming she arrived in Vancouver last night for a flight to Smithers this morning.

Her Twitter message calls the meeting "truly important."

Bennett and British Columbia's Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser, are taking part in the talks that are expected to continue through tomorrow.

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10:30 a.m. ET

About 20 demonstrators have gathered near train tracks in Kingston, Ont.

Local police say the group gathered on the Canadian National Railway Co. train overpass around 8 a.m.

Const. Ash Gutheinz says train traffic has not been affected and officers are monitoring the situation.

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10:17 a.m. ET

A Conservative member of the House of Commons public safety and national security committee wants the government to clarify whether rail blockades in Quebec and Ontario amount to acts of terrorism, meaning RCMP could immediately intervene.

Conservative MP Doug Shipley raised the issue during testimony before the committee this morning after a handful of demonstrators lit fires on or beside rail tracks Wednesday, prompting condemnations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says it's not appropriate for him to make a decision about terrorism because police must decide if protesters' conduct reaches that threshold, but he says he's deeply concerned by their actions.

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8:01 a.m. ET

A meeting is expected to go ahead today between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and British Columbia governments.

Chief Na'Moks, one of five hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline across Wet'suwet'en traditional territories, says the meeting should begin this afternoon and continue Friday.

There was word late Wednesday that the meeting had been cancelled, but Na'Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, says he was told the cancellation was a "miscommunication."

B.C. Premier John Horgan initially called word of the cancellation unfortunate and after Indigenous leaders said the meeting would proceed a spokesman for the premier said the report was promising, but the province says it won't be in a position to confirm the gathering until later this morning.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2020.

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