Published: Sat, February 15, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

Kenney says ongoing rail blockade risks becoming economic crisis

Kenney says ongoing rail blockade risks becoming economic crisis

As a result of the ongoing pipeline protests, VIA Rail has halted all of its trains.

The railway said Thursday it was starting a progressive shutdown in the East, while Via Rail cancelled all service on CN tracks in Canada.

VIA Rail was reportedly issued a notice from the company's infrastructure owner, CN Rail, that says "that they are no longer in a position to fulfill their obligations under the Train Service Agreement".

TransLink, which manages operation of the West Coast Express commuter train between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, says in an email that CP Rail advises the tracks will be in service in time for the homeward commute.

Protesters have threatened to block government buildings in Victoria on Friday, but late Thursday a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted an injunction against further blockades at the legislature.

The elected band council of the Wet'suwet'en, meanwhile, have approved of the project along with all 20 other First Nations councils who represent territories where the pipeline will pass through.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the disruptions must be resolved through dialogue, not by ordering in the police.

Gitxsan hereditary chief Norm Stephens said the blockade will be dismantled during the talks but if the province doesn't agree to cancel Coastal GasLink's permit then it may go back up.

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In a statement to CTV News, CN said, "While the illegal blockades have come to an end in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in British Columbia, the orders of the court in Ontario have yet to be enforced and continue to be ignored".

He is to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations to discuss a way forward.

Many passengers are also uncertain how and when they will be refunded for cancelled train trips.

Numerous blockades are being led by Indigenous groups, including one near Belleville, Ont., which is the major cause of CN's railway network closure.

"It's a bit chaos, everyone just running around", said Kazi Haque, describing his morning at the Via Rail counter inside Toronto's Union Station.

Groups including Grain Growers of Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have said rail delays caused by the blockades are hurting their members and the economy. "Now up to 6,000 of our members risk not being able to support their families or make ends meet this month, and they are powerless to do anything about it", said National President Francois Laporte. But the "very serious threat" extends past Alberta's borders, said Kenney, and affects farmers in Saskatchewan and manufacturing businesses in Ontario.

Canada's forest products sector is responsible for 10 per cent of total tonnage moved along the country's railway lines. Vancouver Police arrested more than 50 people this week enforcing an injunction order against people blocking access to Vancouver area ports.

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