This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
Rail stoppages resulting from demonstrations on and near train tracks have forced Canadian National (CN) Rail to halt operations in eastern Canada while Via Rail is shutting down passenger service across the country.
The company issued a press release calling it a “disciplined and progressive shutdown.”
“This will include stopping and safely securing all trans-continental trains across its Canadian network and may imminently lead to temporary layoffs within the company’s Eastern Canadian operational staff.”
CN has obtained injunctions to end demonstrations near Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario; New Hazelton, B.C.; and near Winnipeg.
“While the illegal blockades have come to an end in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in British Columbia, the orders of the court in Ontario have yet to be enforced and continue to be ignored,” said the statement.
People at these sites have been stopping rail travel for both freight and passenger trains since the RCMP began enforcing an injunction against hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their supporters in B.C.
Mohawks at the Tyendinaga site said they are demonstrating in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and planned to stay as long as the RCMP remained on Wet’suwet’en territory.
A new development Thursday came in the form of an offer from Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller offering to meet with the Mohawks by the rail line.
Outside the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, the OPP are keeping their distance.
The only people showing up are supporters.
Some are Indigenous but most are just local non-Indigenous people from the area who are bringing supplies.
Others show up to voice their support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
The RCMP’s operations have largely ceased and the pipeline company has returned to work. In their most recent update, federal police said patrols continue, however.
In Winnipeg, six people blocked a section of CN’s main line used for passenger and freight trains Wednesday afternoon just west of the city near Headingley.
They even stopped two trains dead in their tracks.
The organizer of the Manitoba action, Calling Buffalo, hopes a public backlash will force government and industry to deliberate more carefully about how they deal with Indigenous people.
“What’s happening now will shape how traditional territories and resources will be accessed. What’s happening can help our people and those who have conflict with industry in the future. Industry and police will think twice about how they handle projects and invading our territories.”
The Manitoba government was going to seek a court injunction to remove the makeshift blockade however Premier Brian Pallister says that CN beat him to the punch.
Due to the injunction, the group has left the site of their blockade less than 24 hours after setting up.
They are not deterred however as they will be setting up at a new location in the near future.
The company claimed the injunction may be enforced “imminently” in New Hazelton.
Ontario Provincial Police have not enforced the injunction at the Tyendinaga site.
“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors,” said JJ Ruest in the release.
CN said that intercity Via Rail service is ending
“Unfortunately, intercity Via Rail service will be discontinued across our Canadian network. However, commuter rail services, such as Metrolinx and Exo, can keep operating so long as they can do so safely.
In a travel advisory on its website, Via Rail confirmed this.
“Following an advisory from the infrastructure owner that they are unable to support our operations across their network, VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel its services, effective immediately and until further notice.”
Ruest called the situation “regrettable” and an “unprecedented ordeal.” He also called the demonstrations “illegal blockades.”
The company also said some commuter services will keep operating so long as they can do so safely.
CN warned Tuesday that a serious shut-down was looming as the actions severely impacted its supply chain, and was running out of space to park trains.