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‘We can’t continue like this’: Quebec, Ottawa form committee to address 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

The Quebec and federal governments plan to establish a committee to address the ongoing blockades in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which are obstructing passenger and freight trains in the province.

François Bonnardel, the province’s transport minister, told reporters on Wednesday outside the National Assembly that he was happy with the development.

“We can’t continue like this,” said Bonnardel.

READ MORE: Still no service on Exo’s Candiac line as Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests reach 3rd day

Quebec MP Pablo Rodriguez, leader of government in the House of Commons, said the committee will closely follow the situation and Ottawa will be in close contact as the blockades continue.

“It means we will be speaking minute by minute,” he said, “that we will be in touch and that we will collaborate very closely together.”

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Over the past week, protests in solidarity with opponents of the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which crosses the unceded Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern British Columbia, have caused rail disruptions across Canada.

Pipeline protest near CN rail tracks in Tyendinaga enters 7th day
Pipeline protest near CN rail tracks in Tyendinaga enters 7th day

The blockades come after the RCMP arrested anti-pipeline demonstrators following a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that required workers be given unobstructed access to a worksite for the project.

As a result, rail service on the busy Montreal-Toronto corridor remains blocked by protesters for the seventh straight day in Ontario.

In Quebec, thousands of commuters on Montreal’s south shore have had to rely on other options as demonstrations in Kahnawake continue to obstruct the tracks of exo’s Candiac train line.

“For the moment, exo is unable to confirm whether the disturbances will be spread over a longer period,” the regional transit authority said in a statement.

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READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests: How Canadian law protects demonstrators

Earlier in the day, politicians of all stripes at the provincial legislature called for more discussions in hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the blockade. Pierre Arcand, the interim leader of the Quebec Liberals, described the situation as “urgent” since commuters were being denied access to public transit.

Premier François Legault also demanded the federal government intervene, saying the entire country is dealing with the fallout.

“It’s not only a problem in Quebec,” he said. “It’s in all provinces.”

Legault said he is also worried that if rail service continues to be cut, the province will not receive propane and other goods it depends on.

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“We’re a bit nervous about getting them in the next few weeks,” he said.

With files from Global News’ Alexandra Mazur and the Canadian Press