via rail cancellation

Via Rail cancelled its trains across Canada and there's no end in sight

Protesters continue to rally all across Canada this week in support of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, members of which are courageously and now-famously fighting to protect their ancestral lands from a $6 billion pipeline project in British Columbia.

Spurred by the RCMP's heavy-handed enforcement of an injunction last week against Indigenous demonstrators who've been blocking access to Coastal GasLink work sites, supporters of the Wet'suwet'en are now forming blockades of their own across railways in several provinces.

The displays of solidarity have been powerful and inspiring, but incredibly problematic for companies that rely on Canada's rail system.

CN Rail, the country's largest railway by fair, announced on Thursday that it would be shutting down its operations in Eastern Canada "until the illegal blockades end."

The shutdown will affect the entire CN network east of Toronto and result in the stoppage of all transcontinental trains in Canada.

Via Rail, which uses CN tracks to operate more than 500 trains a week, has thus been forced to shut down almost all of its passenger services across the country.

"Following an advisory from the infrastructure owner that they are unable to support our operations across their network, VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel most of its services until further notice," read the company's website as of Friday morning.

"VIA Rail is providing full refunds for all cancelled trips, which are being processed automatically. You do not need to contact VIA Rail to confirm the refund, but note that due to the volume of transactions it may take up to a minimum of 15 days to receive."

Only the Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway) are now operational, according to a release issued by Via on Thursday, and the situation is set to remain that way "until further notice."

CN Rail has managed to shut down at least one blockade in Manitoba through a court injunction, but has been unable to use this technique to much effect in B.C. or Ontario.

Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters near Belleville, Ont., have been ignoring a similar injunction from CN Rail, as well as requests from police to dismantle their blockade.

Now, it's up to government officials to try and negotiate an agreement between all parties and get Canada's rail system running again.

Canada's Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, said in a statement on Thursday evening that he is "fully aware and deeply concerned by the impact of the decision CN was forced to take."

"I am in constant communication with CN and CP," he said "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."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, currently in Germany, told reporters in response to the situation on Thursday that Canada is "a country of the rule of law and we need to make sure those laws are followed."

A statement posted to the federal government's website states that Trudeau spoke to B.C. Premier John Horgan on Thursday "regarding the protests that are disrupting rail service across the country."

"The Prime Minister and Premier discussed how freedom of expression is an important democratic right, but activity must respect the courts and act within the law," reads the statement.

"Prime Minister Trudeau expressed the desire to work together closely toward a resolution as soon as possible. Both governments shared a commitment to meeting with Gitxsan Simgyget, Wet'suwet'en Dini Ze' and Ts'ake ze to engage in an ongoing dialogue."

Lead photo by

Nicoli OZ Mathews

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