Via rail suspends all train travel across Canada due to anti-pipeline protests
Via Rail announced on Thursday afternoon that they are suspending all train travel across Canada as a result of the ongoing anti-pipeline protests and blockades.
CTV reports that “the nationwide shutdown [of Via Rail] comes as CN Rail says it is being forced to progressively shut down its operations in Eastern Canada ‘until the illegal blockades end.’ The company said that also means stopping all transcontinental trains across its Canadian network.”
Via Rail announced this morning that CN has notified them that partial routes between Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa will be back up and running as early as Thursday, Feb. 20.
Only trains that serve full trips between Quebec City and Ottawa will resume service. This comes after the better part of two weeks of being shut down as a result of protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people who are against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Trains 22, 24, 26, 28 leaving from Ottawa will be resuming as well as trains 33, 35, 37, and 39 leaving from Quebec City.
All other train services remain cancelled until further notice with the exception of Sudbury–White River (CP Rail) and Churchill–The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway).
The Minister of Indigneous, Marc Miller met with blockade protestors Saturday in Belleville in hopes to negotiate a swift and peaceful resolution. The meeting took place in a nearby community centre and lasted over eight hours, although the minister wasn’t able to give the press many details about what was discussed in said meeting.
On Thursday, an announcement was made by CN Rail that it is ceasing operations of its whole network east of Toronto due to ongoing pipeline protests close to Belleville, Ont. Eastern Canada staff are now being laid off as a result according to CBC News.
This comes after VIA Rail has cancelled over 400 trains throughout the country and has affected more than 83,000 passengers.
Blockades continue to cut off the main line and the Maritime provinces are taking the blow. The blockades have been put in place to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are against the pipeline that is to be built in northern B.C.
According to CN Rail spokesperson, Alexandre Boulé the layoff notices have been sent to employees in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New Brunswick.
“Our shutdown is progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely,” said Boulé in an email.
Bruce Snow, a union spokesperson said that so far in Moncton, seven people have been temporarily laid off and three others have been laid off in Halifax. He noted that there are more to come.
“We do, however, anticipate a much larger impact should the blockades continue to reduce or shut down the CN eastern network.”
Executive director at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, Jean-Marc Picard said that the impact started to be felt last week.
“Obviously if things keep up, we’re going to be even busier,” said Picard. He also noted that a single rail car does the work of three trucks.
“We can’t handle all the rail traffic that’s sitting there, it would be logistically impossible. But we’re certainly doing what we can to alleviate the impact on communities.”
Picard said that they are working to meet the needs but still have to meet their normal demands. Regulations in the industry also limit the amount of hours an employee can drive in a week and the company can’t do anything beyond these regulations.
“People don’t realize how crucial it is, transportation to communities. Whether it’s medical supplies, food, fuel,” noted Picard.
He also said that the backlog “will drag on for weeks and weeks” even if trains are back up and running by tomorrow.
On Sunday, Nathalie St-Pierre, the Canadian Propane Association president and CEO said that a shortage of propane will start to be seen in a matter of days.
“This is an emergency. People have to understand that, and those that are protesting have to understand that there needs to be resumption of the services,” She said.
“We haven’t seen any progress in terms of finding solutions now for the issues of getting the transportation to be back to normal. So it’s very troublesome.”
“Some industries can switch back to oil or other sources, but that’s also going to run out eventually.”
The ongoing #ShutDownCanada protests, which have put Canada to a grinding halt, could impact drinking water in major Canadian cities.
Cathy Campbell, the president of Responsible Distribution Canada—a non-profit trade association for the distribution sector of the Canadian chemical industry—told NewsTalk 1010 that protests have effectively stopped the transportation of chlorine, a disinfectant added to drinking water to reduce or eliminate microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, which can be present in water supplies. Chlorine is considered an important chemical for water treatment.
Campbell says the blockades could be under boil-water advisories “within days.”
Some cities, Newstalk reports, will not be affected as they receive their chemicals via truck. This includes Toronto.
Cambell says another week of protests would be “critical.”
“We certainly don’t want to go another week … That would be seriously critical.”
Canadian drinking water supplies have used chlorine for over a century, with drinking water supplies having “greatly improved” due to its addition.
According to the federal government website, “Disinfecting our drinking water ensures it is free of the microorganisms that can cause serious and life-threatening diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever.”
“To this day, chlorine remains the most commonly used drinking water disinfectant, and the disinfectant for which we have the most scientific information.”
Via Rail has stated that the rail service will take around 36 hours to recommence once the solidarity blockades are gone, according to CTV News.
On Wednesday, Marie-Anna Murat, a spokesperson for the company said, “Via Rail is working with the infrastructure owner on the specifics of the resumption of service which is estimated to take at least 36 hours from the time the line is cleared.”
The company announced on Tuesday that all services from Via Rail will be cancelled from Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal until Thursday.
The protesters have been active for many days and caused a lot of interferences with travel throughout Canada. The protests are being held to show support for those of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who do not want the pipeline to be built on their land.
The 20 elected band councils along the route of the pipeline have allowed Coastal GasLink permission to follow through with the pipeline. However, there are some hereditary chiefs who don’t want the 670-kilometer pipeline project to go through.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touched on the subject in Senegal, saying, “We recognize the important democratic right—and we will always defend it—of peaceful protests. This is an important part of our democracy in Canada, but we are also a country of the rule of law and we need to make sure those laws are respected.”
“That’s why I am encouraging all parties to dialogue to resolve this as quickly as possible,” he said.
It has now been five days since the railway service has been active. According to Via Rail, approximately 34,000 passengers will have been inconvenienced by the 223 trains that they have had to cancel.
“We know that this unfortunate situation has an impact on our passengers travelling plans and we apologize for the inconvenience it is causing,” said Via Rail.
“We encourage them, if they need to travel in the affected areas over the next 2 days, to use alternative modes of transportation.”
Conflict began last week when the RCMP made their way into the Wet’suwet’en land attempting to stop the protesters from obstructing roadways.
Via said, “since the blockade continues near New Hazelton, B.C., normal rail activities are interrupted between Prince Rupert-Prince George, in both directions until further notice.”
The company also made it clear that they would be giving customers full refunds for their inconvenience and because of the amount of requests this could take close to ten days for some.