CN shuts down eastern rail network, Via service due to anti-pipeline blockades

CN shuts down eastern rail network, Via service due to anti-pipeline blockades

Blockades set up by anti-pipeline protesters have forced Canadian National Railway Co. to shut down its entire network in Eastern Canada and Via Rail to cancel passenger service across the country.

CN said Thursday that the company must initiate a “disciplined and progressive” shutdown in the East and stop and safely secure all transcontinental trains across its Canadian network.

Via Rail said it has no other option but to cancel all its service on CN track in Canada. There were no more departures as of 4 p.m. eastern and all trains en route were brought to the closest major train station.

“We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel plans,” Via said in a news release.

CN said its shutdown may imminently lead to temporary layoffs for eastern Canadian staff.

The company said it has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

It said while the blockades have been dismantled in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in B.C., the court order in Ontario has yet to be enforced and continues to be ignored.

Protesters across Canada have said they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would cross the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern B.C.

CN said it has tried to adjust its operations to serve customers, but it is now left with the only remaining responsible option: progressively shutting down eastern Canadian operations.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer, in a news release.

“This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely.”

He said while Via service will be discontinued across CN’s network, commuter rail services such as Metrolinx and Exo can keep operating as long as they do so safely.

The federal and B.C. governments are setting up meetings with Indigenous leaders in an effort to halt the rail blockades that have choked Canada’s economy.

Premier John Horgan said in a letter that Gitxsan Chief Norman Stephens proposed a meeting of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to discuss a blockade near New Hazelton, B.C.

Horgan said he understood that if his government and the Canadian government agreed to a meeting, then the blockade would be removed to allow for a period of peaceful calm and dialogue.

Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser is set to attend on behalf of the B.C. government while Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will represent the federal government.

Marc Miller, the federal Indigenous services minister, also sent a letter to three Indigenous leaders in Ontario on Thursday suggesting a meeting to discuss a blockade near Belleville, Ont.

“My request, that I ask you kindly to consider, is to discontinue the protest and barricade of the train tracks as soon as practicable. As you well know, this is a highly volatile situation and the safety of all involved is of the utmost importance to me,” Miller said in the email posted publicly on Thursday.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle, one of the three recipients, said he expects the meeting will proceed but he can’t comment on Miller’s request to end the blockade because it wasn’t initiated by his council.

“We’re happy that he’s agreed to come,” Maracle said.

In Manitoba, protesters dismantled a blockade on an east-west Canadian National Railway line due to a court injunction but insisted that there would be more action to come.

Protesters in B.C. continued to demonstrate against the provincial government on Thursday, days after hundreds of people blocked the entrances to the B.C. legislature and chanted “Shame.”

Dozens of people occupied the office of Attorney General David Eby, demanding that RCMP and Coastal GasLink withdraw from Wet’suwet’en territory.

The head of the province’s civil service also sent an email to employees warning that another protest may occur on Friday.

Don Wright wrote that staff may have heard protesters are planning to “shut down” as many ministries as possible.

“Please ensure that your safety and that of your colleagues is your first priority,” he said. “We will not ask public servants to put themselves into any situation where they do not feel safe.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Alberta Humane Society looking for volunteers

The Central Alberta Humane Society is in need of volunteers Dec. 11… Continue reading

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Drumheller RCMP arrest local drug dealer

A joint forces investigation involving Drumheller RCMP and ALERT has led to… Continue reading

Red Deer Advocate file photo
Ex-mountie found not guilty of sexual assault in Red Deer court

An ex-mountie who was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow RCMP officer… Continue reading

The City of Red Deer has opened its 77 outdoor rinks for skating and hockey. (Photo courtesy of The City of Red Deer)
Red Deer city outdoor rinks ready to go

It’s time to dust of the skates for outdoor rinks. The City… Continue reading

Eva Pennock got an unlikely visit from a horse at a Three Hills Health Care Centre. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Pennock)
Unlikely visitor brings cheer to residents at Three Hills Health Care Centre

An unlikely visitor spread some cheer and good tidings this week at… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Longtime central Alberta politician Judy Gordon has passed away. Photo courtesy of the City of Lacombe
Former Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon passes away

Gordon also served as MLA for Lacombe-Stettler before retiring from politics in 2010

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (left) and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw pose for a photo after they received a flu shot earlier this year. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s flu vaccine distribution already closing in on last year’s totals

Central zone has administered 122,000 doses of influenza vaccine

Hugh Danielson and Brayden Watts, of Red Deer are trying to spread the word about a new innovation for wheelchairs that they think will be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Brayden Watts)
Local medical supply company lands exclusive patent rights to wheelchair extension

By some small miracle, Hugh Danielson and Brayden Watts stumbled upon a… Continue reading

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.  (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Premier critical of COVID-19 anti-maskers

Premier Jason Kenney advised those attending anti-mask rallies this weekend to do… Continue reading

Police are on the lookout for Hugo Strohschein, 85, was last seen shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Red Deer. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP seek help to locate missing 85-year-old man

The Red Deer RCMP is hoping for the public’s help to locate… Continue reading

A masked worker walks behind a hiring sign on his way into the Dover Cliffs long term care home in Port Dover, Ont., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Statistics Canada will say this morning how Canada's job market fared last month as COVID-19 case counts rose along with a new round of public health restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian economy added 62,000 jobs in November, Statistics Canada says

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the economy added 62,000 jobs in November… Continue reading

Bank towers are shown from Bay Street in Toronto's financial district, on Wednesday, June 16, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrien Veczan
North American stocks up in early trading, loonie tops 78 cents US

TORONTO — Gains in the mining and metals sector helped lift Canada’s… Continue reading

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori delivers a speech after an opening plenary session of the three-party meeting on Tokyo 2020 Games additional costs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Friday, Dec 4, 2020. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics delay costs may reach $2.8 billion

TOKYO — The cost of the postponement for the Tokyo Olympics could… Continue reading

Most Read