Via Rail says service will take at least 36 hours to resume once blockades clear
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.
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.
As the #ShutDownCanada protests rage on into the 12th day with no end in sight, with border crossings being the latest major infrastructure spots targeted on Monday and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only late Sunday finally taking the crisis seriously, here’s a look at some of the most important facts regarding the illegal protests.
1. What is the pipeline project?
The Coastal GasLink pipeline project is a 670 km pipeline that is meant to carry natural gas across the northern section of British Columbia. The project is estimated to cost $6.6 billion. The pipeline path starts in the Dawson Creek area close to the border of BC and travels west to Kitimat, B.C.
2. Prolonged and growing illegal protests
On Dec. 31, the BC The Supreme Court granted an expansion injunction to Coastal GasLink against members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who were obstructing access to construction.
Blockades began on Feb. 6 when the RCMP started to enforce the injunction and protestors were asked to leave the camp. The protestors were blocking a service road close to Houston, BC Tensions have been escalating since the incident and #ShutDownCanada blockades started springing up across the country.
The protests are still going strong, with cargo and passenger trains shut down across the country and border crossings blocked today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled a trip to Barbados last minute Sunday and had a meeting with a group of cabinet ministers in Ottawa on the subject Monday. Trudeau said his government is focusing “on resolving this situation quickly and peacefully.”
3. Arrested protesters
Many of the protests have illegally blocked major parts of Canada’s infrastructure with impunity, but others have ended up in cuffs.
On Monday, Feb. 10, 57 protestors were arrested for the Metro Vancouver port blockade.
On Jan. 7, there were 14 arrests made at a protest camp in Northern BC.
There were 12 protestors arrested in the office of the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
On Feb. 8, there were 11 people arrested at the Port of Vancouver.
Another 6 arrests occurred earlier in the month at a blockade in Northern BC.
Despite these arrests, the majority of the anti-pipeline activists have gotten away with breaking the law, with one counter protestor trying to remove a blockade getting arrested instead of the people illegally blocking a highway.
4. Support vs. opposition for the pipeline
The Angus Reid Institute created a poll that sampled 1,508 people and asked them about their opinions on the pipeline. The poll found that 51 percent of Canadians support the pipeline while 36 percent are against it. Less than half of Canadians are for the Wet’suwet’en solidarity protestors with 39 percent supporting them.
Most people feel that further consultation with the hereditary chiefs is needed to discuss the pipeline properly.
The poll was taken from Feb. 10-12.
5. Majority of First Nations involved want the pipeline
There are 13 hereditary chief positions, but not all of them are currently filled. These chiefs oversee the Wet’suwet’en Nations five clans.
All 20 of the elected First Nations councils who are located along the path of the pipeline have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink. These councils represent approximately 2,800 people.
Five Hereditary Chiefs have claimed that the project does not have any authority to carry on without their consent.
6. Why isn’t law enforcement breaking up blockades and arresting more people?
Law enforcement may be hesitant to break up blockades because the protests going on resemble that of the Oka Crisis which began on July 11, 1990 and lasted until September 26, 1990, spanning 78 days. The Oka Crisis is an ugly chapter in Canadian history that the government does not want to repeat.
The Oka Crisis involved a standoff between the Canadian military and the Mohawks. The standoff was over the expansion of a golf course onto Native land and eventually resulted in one fatality.
TVO talked to Kahente Horn-Miller who remembers the crisis. She said, “Oka is still in our memory. There are still a lot of people who are alive who were a part of that. That was only 30 years ago. And it was a moment of awakening for a lot of us, because my generation were teenagers, right? So it’s not easy to forget,”
The crisis finished after the expansion was cancelled on Sept. 26, 1990.
7. Shortage of goods due to CN Rail trains blocked for over a week
Goods that travel by rail across the country have been at a standstill along with the trains. This is leading to shortages of groceries, propane, drinking water, baby formula and personal hygiene products.
8. CN Rail lays off employees
CN rail announced Monday it has had to send out layoff notices to employees in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia due to the prolonged shut down of their operations. Other employers that have a supply chain that relies on Canada’s railway system will also inevitably be affected by lay offs if the protests continue.
9. Via Rail says nearly 100,000 passengers trips cancelled
Via Rail announced on Saturday that over 400 trains had been cancelled and over 83,000 passengers were unable to take the train to travel across Canada in the span of the last week and a half. As trains are still not moving, that number continues to rise and would undoubtedly raise the price of other modes of transportation such as air travel.
10. Difference between hereditary Chiefs and elected chiefs
Hereditary chiefs are chiefs who have their titles passed down from generation to generation. These titles predate colonization. The chiefs are representatives of the separate houses that together make up the First Nations. Hereditary chiefs are in charge of traditional land management.
Elected band councils differ from the hereditary chiefs because they are elected community members. These councils came in 1876 after the Indian Act was established. The act created a guideline for how the Canadian government interacts with Indigenous people.
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.”
“There’s a hole in the sky where the tree once was / Somebody’s making money!” Eco-activists burst into song at Seattle City Council on Wednesday to protest trees being “murdered.”
The group called “Save Our Trees” was led by Suzanne Grant whose lead vocals were raw and powerful. Her fellow tree rights activists included one woman dressed as a tree.
“After the performance, Grant was given a verbal warning for disrupting the meeting by leading others in song. Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis, who represents District 7 from Pioneer Square to Magnolia, thanked Grant for her time and said he would follow up about the ordinance. Watch tree activists break into song at Seattle City Council meeting,” K5 News reports.
Save Our Trees claims that “With increasing development Seattle is losing its trees and tree canopy volume,” and they are demanding that Seattle pass an ordinance to protect its trees.