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Quebec premier wants Ottawa to intervene in rail line blockades

Members of the Mohawk community are shown on the Kahnawake reserve near a Canadian Pacific rail track south of Montreal, Monday, February 10, 2020 to stand in solidarity with protesters opposed to a pipeline project in northwestern B.C. .
Members of the Mohawk community are shown on the Kahnawake reserve near a Canadian Pacific rail track south of Montreal, Monday, February 10, 2020 to stand in solidarity with protesters opposed to a pipeline project in northwestern B.C. . Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault is calling on the federal government to intervene as ongoing anti-pipeline protests continue to block rail lines across the country.

“I’m confident that we will be able to settle the problem rapidly,” said Legault. “We also need the federal government to be involved because it doesn’t only concern Quebec it concerns all provinces.”

Blockades in solidarity with the opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia have halted hundreds of freight and commuter trains in Canada.

READ MORE: Pipeline demonstration halts service on Exo’s Candiac line in Montreal

The protests come after the RCMP arrested anti-pipeline demonstrators last week following a B.C. Supreme Court injunction, requiring workers be given access to a key worksite for the $6.6-billion project.

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Thousands of commuters on Montreal’s south shore have been affected for the past two days as blockades in Kahnawake continue to obstruct the tracks of exo’s Candiac train line.

Mohawks protesting in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation told Global News they planned to stay for as long it takes in order to protect the land and future generations.

As a result, the regional transit authority has been forced to cancel trains through the area and supply shuttle buses to move passengers. Spokesperson Catherine Maurice said exo doesn’t know when service will resume.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades of rail lines ‘illegal,’ Garneau says

Aside from local trains, the blockades have also impacted Via Rail service in the Toronto-Montreal corridor for six days straight. Canadian National Railway is also threatening to close parts of its network if the protests don’t end.

Legault said he is worried that if the federal government doesn’t act soon, Quebec could be in a similar situation to when the CN strikes left the province facing a propane shortage.

“With exo, we can use buses a few times,” said Legault. “If we’re talking about goods, I don’t want to repeat what happened a couple of weeks ago.”

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he is working with the affected railways and his Ontario counterpart to find a solution, and that the blockage of tracks is “dangerous and illegal.”

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However, he said that the responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with the provinces and their police forces.

Wet’suwet’en rail blockades ‘illegal,’ but it’s up to provinces to act: Garneau
Wet’suwet’en rail blockades ‘illegal,’ but it’s up to provinces to act: Garneau

— With files from Global News’ Simon Little, Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press