Trains are once again stopped between Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto on Monday, making this the fifth day Via Rail has had to cancel travel in those corridors in response to protest action east of Belleville, Ont.
A small group of protesters has been stationed in vehicles at a level rail crossing in Tyendinaga Township, Ont., just metres away from the border of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who are protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern British Columbia.
Service has also been cancelled on British Columbia’s Prince Rupert and Prince George lines Monday, since a blockade has taken up camp in New Hazelton, B.C., which Via says it was made aware of Saturday evening.
Additionally, protesters in Montreal have blocked a commuter line run by Exo, halting service on its Line 4 Candiac Monday.
All three blockades are solidarity protests that stem from an injunction received by RCMP on Thursday, allowing them to move into Wet’suwet’en territory, where a blockade had been set up to prevent pipeline construction through unceded territory. Since then, 21 arrests have been made. Eleven of those arrests took place Saturday after RCMP moved a contentious access control checkpoint back by 23 kilometres, ordering those at the former protest site to leave.
The solidarity protest in Tyendinaga originally began Thursday evening, halting trains intermittently the night of Feb. 6, but the protests have been continuous since Friday morning, forcing Via Rail to stop train travel on several lines.
According to an update on Monday on Via’s website, “services continue to operate between Ottawa and Montreal, between Montreal and Quebec City, and west of Toronto in southwestern Ontario.”
Bill Dickson, communications officer for Ontario Provincial Police, also said on Monday that officers are actively involved in the situation.
“Members of our provincial liaison team are in contact with the demonstrators. We respect the right of everyone (to have) freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Dickson said in an emailed statement.
Nevertheless, Dickson noted that CN Rail police, who have jurisdiction over the rail lines, have received an injunction to remove protesters from the area. Given that Tyendinaga Township falls under OPP jurisdiction, Dickson said provincial police are “required to act on these court orders.”
“The OPP calls on those involved to abide by the injunction and to not (put) public peace or anyone’s safety in jeopardy.”
CN Rail says the blockades across the country have had a “severe impact” on Canadians, since the train cancellations have restricted the transportation of the following:
- Everyday consumer products and fresh foods for groceries
- Passenger services between rural communities and urban centres
- Grain farmed by Canadians across the Prairies that feeds international markets
- Feedstocks into manufacturing plants as well as outbound products for retail
- Coal, potash, lumber, aluminum and other natural resources
CN also said the Port of Prince Rupert, Port of Montreal and Port of Halifax are also being “negatively impacted.”
“The Tyendinaga blockade is affecting the movement of goods between western Canada and eastern Canada and between eastern Canada and the U.S. mid-west,” a statement from a CN spokesperson read.
The rail company said it is working with local police to enforce orders issued from courts ordering that protesters cease disrupting CN operations.
Nevertheless, a video posted to social media shows people stationed outside the Tyendinaga rail crossing who say they received a court injunction from OPP, and then burning the court documents.
The Tyendinaga protesters have repeatedly denied requests for interviews, and have repeatedly threatened a Global News reporter stationed at the railway tracks, although the group has been active on social media.
Via Rail said that as of noon on Monday, 111 trains were cancelled and at least 19,500 passengers have been impacted. CN said in total across Canada, nearly 200 trains have been impacted.
Customers are currently being given three hours’ notice on cancellations of their trips. Via Rail said it cannot comment on what will take place if rail service is to resume.
“At this time, it is too early to tell how service resumption will take place as there will be significant rail traffic that will need to be dealt with.”
Via Rail is currently encouraging passengers who need to travel Monday to find an “alternate mode of transportation,” since it is not able to provide one.
“We know that this unfortunate situation has an impact on our passengers travelling plans and we apologize for the inconvenience it is causing,” Via Rail said in an emailed statement.
More to come.
— With files from Global News’ Kerri Breen and Sean Boynton