Anti-pipeline protestors shut down train travel for fourth day
Environmental activists have blocked train tracks for the fourth day now, blocking passenger and freight trains between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, according to CTV News.
The train blockade started last week on Thursday. This was in response to similar protests in Northern British Columbia against the building of a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. Despite the protests, the Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council and most hereditary chiefs support the pipeline project.
In a statement on Twitter, Via Rail said that protestors were blocking the tracks near Bellville, Ontario—causing routes to be cancelled between Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
As well as this, Via Rail has said that none of the routes that have been affected by this protest will be running until the protests have been resolved—casting thousands of commuters schedules into disarray.
Despite this, Via Rail has promised to refund all tickets that have been affected by these on-going protests.
These protestors are attacking Via Rail due to their perceived involvement in transporting pipeline material to British Columbia for the construction of the pipeline.
It is so far unclear as to when these protestors will be removed. The Canadian National Railway has been granted an injunction to clear the environmental protestors from the tracks so that normal commuting can continue.
Prime Minister Trudeau will hold a meeting with all the Canadian premiers in order to update what the federal government’s plan is to deal with the anti-pipeline protestors various blockades. Across the nation, railroads have been unusable for over the past two weeks.
Via Rail and CN Rail have now been shut down for 15 consecutive days, resulting in both companies being forced to lay off more than 1,000 total employees according to Global News.
“Today the prime minister will again engage with premiers in a call with the Council of the Federation. We’re working hard to reach a peaceful and lasting resolution.” said Cameron Ahmad, director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office.“From Day 1 the prime minister and ministers have been directly engaging with provincial governments to resolve this complex situation,”
Protestors behind the blockades claim they are acting in solidarity with some of the hereditary chiefs of B.C.’s Wet’suwet’en First Nation who are opposed to the Coastal GasLink natural gas line project. This claim remains despite the fact that the majority of Wet’suwet’en people voted to approve the project.
The five hereditary chiefs who oppose the project are a minority of the 13 total hereditary chiefs of the community who do support the project. Members of the Mohawk community in Tyendinaga and Kahnawake said they are protesting in solidarity with those five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who stand against the Coastal GasLink project.
The elected band council for the Wet’suwet’en people also support the pipeline, as do 20 other First Nations that are along the proposed route.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is confident that this new meeting will bring a resolution to this ongoing dispute.
“These are opportunities to come to a peaceful resolution,” Miller told reporters in Ottawa. “I think this will give us an increased opportunity to have those discussions so we can de-escalate.”
RCMP in B.C. offered to leave the area of the territory the Wet’suwet’en claim as their traditional lands despite having a court injunction to remove the protestors from the area.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he feels the RCMP’s move will show some good faith, “the conditions have now been met” for a resolution. “I believe the time has come for the barricades to come down,” he said.
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.
The Thousand Islands Bridge, which had been closed down due to a blockade from people protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline, has been reopened. The bridge is located in Gananoque near Kingston Ont.
The bridge allows access to US from Canada however both ways had previously been restricted due to the protests. The traffic restrictions were lifted as of 3 p.m. Monday.
Many commuters were stuck at the border for such as Dan Vance who told Global News he was halted for 45 minutes on his back from the U.S. The 59-year-old was in Canada customs paying taxes when he was delayed.
“Hopefully, it’s no more than an hour or two but right here, this time of year, right around the Thousand Islands nothing is opened because it’s wintertime,” Vance said.
“I’m hoping there’s no emergency where an ambulance or a firetruck has to get through.”
Vance said there were about 30 cars backed up behind him as well as many who just turned around and drove back into the U.S.
The railway blockages and protests have been happening for the last three weeks in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline.
The elected Indigenous councils have already signed an agreement with Coastal GasLink to approve the route however some hereditary chiefs oppose it and claim to have rights over the unceded land.
Niagra Falls, Ont. and Niagra Falls, N.Y. also had a group of protestors shut down the border crossing however they left on Sunday of their own accord.
There are other protests currently happening throughout the country.
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.”