Minister offers to meet chiefs over cross-country anti-pipeline protests

Andrew Cummings
February 13, 2020

The Port of Prince Rupert is effectively already shutdown.

With no end in sight for demonstrations around B.C. and other parts of the country, Wet'suwet'en supporters are gathering Thursday for more action.

Protesters supporting the Wet'suwet'en First Nation blocked traffic in downtown Ottawa for about an hour Wednesday evening.

Via Rail is cancelling service on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto routes until at least the end of the day on Friday because of a blockade near Belleville, Ont.

"We are now parking trains across our network, but due to limited available space for such, CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end", Ruest said in a statement.

The blockades affecting CN are near Belleville - on the Class I's only eastern link between Western Canada and Eastern Canada and between Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest - and on the freight railroad's northern mainline in British Columbia between Prince George and Prince Rupert. "The impact is also being felt beyond Canada's borders and is harming the country's reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner".

"It's real crisis", said Joel Neuheimer, head of global trade with the Forest Products Association of Canada.

"We have members whose customers aren't placing orders right now in the USA because they know that it's not going to get there as soon as it needs to get there". "I understand that on receipt of this letter and a similar commitment from Canada, the blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue".

"There are now no movements of any trains, freight or passenger, at both those locations".

Despite the countrywide impact, responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with provincial politicians and police, he noted.

After almost a week of halting trains on the Ontario lines, OPP say they are still negotiating with the protesters.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said an officer of the court read an injunction to the protesters Tuesday morning ordering them to abandon the blockade, which bisects Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, about 20 kilometres east of Belleville.

"We have obtained court injunctions for both locations and we are working with local enforcement agencies to enforce the orders", Ruest adds.

The blockades are disrupting passenger-rail travel as well as Canadians' ability to move goods and enable trade, CN officials said.

The challenge calls on the Federal Court to declare that Canada is constitutionally obliged to meet worldwide climate change targets, which the chiefs contend would cancel approvals for a natural gas pipeline that runs through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C.

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