Quebecers scramble to find alternatives as rail travel in eastern Canada shuts down over blockades

Click to play video: 'Blockades and train cancellations lead to service disruptions in Quebec'
Blockades and train cancellations lead to service disruptions in Quebec
Thousands of passengers are dealing with train cancellations amid ongoing blockades on the CN Rail network. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports – Feb 14, 2020

Quebecers across the province are facing train cancellations on commuter rail lines Friday morning as blockades in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs in British Columbia continue.

Thousands of commuters on Montreal’s south shore are relying on a shuttle bus service as protests in Kahnawake stretch into their fifth day. Since Monday, protesters have blocked the tracks of exo’s Candiac line.

“Our main goal is to assure service for our commuters on the Candiac train line,” said exo spokesperson Catherine Maurice. “We hope that we will resume the train service as soon as possible.

“We’re doing all that we can in the perspective that we’re not the owners of the track.”

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

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READ MORE: Via Rail cancels most trains across the country as CN shuts down rails in eastern Canada

Travellers are also scrambling after Canadian National Railway shut down its entire railway network in eastern Canada and Via Rail cancelled most of its services in the area.

The shutdown, which was announced on Thursday by the two companies, has left train passengers stranded and trying to find other options. At Montreal’s Central Station, the majority of Via Rail trains have been cancelled.

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Kirsten Mahue, who was on a work trip to Toronto, had to book planes and buses to get back home to the Eastern Townships. She said the delays have been inconvenient, but she understands the reason behind the blockades.

“It’s frustrating but I get why there are protests and I’m in solidarity with them,” she said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said on Friday afternoon there needs to be a solution in the near future.

“We cannot just wait and see,” she said. “It affects people’s day-to-day life.”

Concerns in Quebec

Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel arrived in Toronto on Thursday evening to discuss the situation with his other provincial counterparts.

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“I remain deeply concerned about the ongoing blockades and the impact on CN and Via Rail service,” he said on social media.

Over the past week, protests in support of those who oppose a Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia have caused rail disruptions across Canada.

READ MORE: Quebec, Ottawa form committee to address rail line blockades

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.

Quebec Premier François Legault has repeatedly called on the federal government to intervene. He argues the entire country is dealing with the consequences of commuter rail shutdowns.

He has also expressed concerns that the province will not be able to receive propane if the blockades continue.

Ghislain Picard, head of Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador, said the blame game between the provincial and federal governments isn’t helpful.

Finding a solution to end the dispute, he said, is a shared responsibility.

“The Wet’suwet’en will have to have their own internal discussions as to how they want to see these discussions end, but the governments as well will have to look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘well, where have we failed, where can we do better in terms of a process that would be fair and just for Indigenous peoples?'”

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Click to play video: 'Demonstration near Belleville, Ont., gains support from locals'
Demonstration near Belleville, Ont., gains support from locals

— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah and Brayden Jagger Haines and the Canadian Press

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