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CN Rail begins calling back workers laid off during anti-pipeline blockades

Tyendinaga protesters stand on tracks attempting to block oncoming CN freight train
Video captured on a Facebook live stream from Real Peoples Media shows protesters at the rail blockade on Tyendinaga Mohal Territory on the tracks trying to get an oncoming freight train to stop.

CN Rail has started calling back some of the 450 workers the company laid off in Eastern Canada earlier this month due to blockades set up on the company’s rail lines.

The company confirmed to Global that an email was sent to its customers Friday announcing the news, but would not share additional details.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with gov’t ministers for second day
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with gov’t ministers for second day

The email, which was first reported by Reuters, does not say exactly how many workers are being called back, but said the move is being made due to a lack of blockades on the CN Rail network over the past 24 hours.

READ MORE: Via Rail to resume partial service on Eastern Canada routes starting Tuesday

“While we are keeping a close watch for any further disruptions, we have started calling back many of the temporarily laid off employees based in Eastern Canada,” CN chief executive Jean-Jacques Ruest said in the email seen by Reuters.

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Several blockades were set up on the company’s rail lines across the country in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C., crippling CN’s operations in Eastern Canada for nearly three weeks.

CN Rail issues approximately 450 temporary layoff notices amid Wet’suwet’en protests
CN Rail issues approximately 450 temporary layoff notices amid Wet’suwet’en protests

The longest-standing of those blockades, set up by Mohawk First Nation members on their territory in Tyendinega, Ont., was taken down on Monday by police, who also arrested 10 people.

CN has been granted injunctions against the protesters, who had said they wouldn’t clear the way for freight and commuter trains until RCMP and Coastal GasLink left Wet’suwet’en territory.

Poll: Canadians disapprove of Trudeau’s, premiers’ response to rail blockades
Poll: Canadians disapprove of Trudeau’s, premiers’ response to rail blockades

The email says that after 21 days of disruptions, “there is a significant backlog of trains parked on our tracks and in our yards that will be processed,” which could take “several weeks” to complete and get the network fully recovered.

READ MORE: CN Rail layoffs will ‘further complicate’ tangled supply chain, industries say

The company said its operations in Western Canada are on their way to being fully recovered.

The layoffs this month affected operational staff, including employees working at Autoport in Eastern Passage, Moncton, Charny and Montreal.

Supply chains already hit hard by the eight-day CN worker strike in November had warned it could take even longer to recover from the effects of the blockades.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with gov’t ministers for second day
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with gov’t ministers for second day

The apparent end of the blockades comes as federal and B.C. Indigenous relations ministers are sitting down for talks with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and others involved in the Coastal GasLink dispute to try and find a solution.

The chiefs say they have sole rights and title over their traditional territory and have not agreed to the project. Twenty elected First Nations councils along the pipeline route, including bands within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, have signed agreements with the company.

—With files from Global’s Rachel D’Amore and Reuters