VIA Rail cancels nationwide service over ongoing pipeline protests

Published On February 14, 2020 | By Patrick Simpson | News, Politics
Protests in support of the B.C. based Wet’suwet’en first nation has spread across parts of Canada. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

Patrick Simpson

VIA Rail has announced a cancellation of all services on CN tracks in Canada. The country-wide shutdown affecting passenger trains follows a series of ongoing anti-pipeline protests by First Nations.

“VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), until further notice,” said VIA Rail Canada in a statement released Thursday.  

The latest announcement comes as over 100 commercial and transport trains were halted owing to a CN Rail blockade put in place by members of the Ontario based Mohawk First Nation.

The man-made barrier was put in place last week in an act of solidarity with members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation who are protesting the continued construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline in B.C.

Five hereditary chiefs in Wet’suwet’en are in an ongoing dispute with the B.C. government and the pipeline’s owner, Coastal Gaslink. The chiefs are arguing against the planned pipeline crossing through Wet’suwet’en territory.

Coastal Gaslink has said it has a legal right to build the line after getting approval from the B.C. government and by the First Nations band councils that surround the pipeline’s route.

Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline project was approved by all 20 of the First Nations band councils after a series of consultations. Those talks led to an agreement of $1-billion in benefits that would be gained from jobs created by the pipeline’s construction.

The $6.6-billion, 670-km pipeline is expected to bring gas from Dawson Creek, near the Alberta border to Kitimat in western B.C.

Protesters in Wet’suwet’en have been fighting the construction of the pipeline by placing blockades and preventing workers from entering their territory.

The blockades have led to a number of court orders and several arrests of protesters supporting the members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation anti-pipeline efforts.

The Feb. 6 arrests of Wet’suwet’en supporters by the RCMP after came after protesters refused to remove their pipeline blockade and ignored a B.C. Supreme Court injunction.

That led to a wave of solidarity protests that swept the country.

One of those protests includes the Mohawk First Nation placing a blockade of their own on CN tracks and closing the railway for several days.

Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said in a statement Thursday that he plans to meet with First Nation protesters tomorrow.

“I am meeting with my provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations tomorrow and will be discussing a way forward.”

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