Via Rail cancels all Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa departures until Friday
TORONTO -- Via Rail is cancelling all train service from Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Ottawa due to the ongoing blockade just east of Belleville, Ont.
In a travel advisory issued late Tuesday, Via Rail stated all routes Toronto and Montreal and all routes between Toronto and Ottawa would be cancelled until the end of day Thursday. The trains that do not pass through Belleville will be unaffected, the company added.
Passengers will be issued a full refund, the company said, but it could take up to 10 days to process.
Protesters have disrupted travel across much of the country for several days in a show of solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en Nation, whose hereditary chiefs oppose the construction of a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline through northern British Columbia.
Supporters of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have set up blockades and protests across the country.
The demonstration near Belleville led to the cancellation of 34 VIA Rail trains between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto on Tuesday and also brought freight traffic to a halt.
Earlier Tuesday, CN Rail said it would shut down a "significant parts of its Canadian network” unless the blockades are removed.
“It’s not just passenger trains that are impacted by these blockades, it’s all Canadian supply-chains,” JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer at CN, said in a statement. “We are currently parking trains across our network, but due to limited available space for such, CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end."
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau called the blockades "dangerous" and "illegal."
"We are concerned because this has an effect on the transportation of goods by train across the country and those trains in some cases are not being able to operate as they normally do because of the blockades," Garneau told reporters in Calgary. "It also has an effect on VIA Rail… and it is actually illegal because it infringes on the Railway Safety Act and for obvious reasons it's dangerous to actually block the rails, so we are very concerned about if from that point of view."
In Quebec,Montreal's commuter rail service Exo was forced to cancel service for a second day due to a protest against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Another protest near Hazelton, B.C., is stopping VIA Rail services between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
The protests were sparked after the RCMP enforced a court injunction and began arresting those attempting to block access to the pipeline route near Houston, B.C.
The transport minister said when injunctions are obtained it's up the provinces to act, and not the federal government.
"We hope this will get resolved because it's having an important impact on the economy of the country," Garneau said. "Not only that, it also potentially presents some safety considerations and safety concerns. Obviously we hope it's going to be resolved but it is up to the provinces to make those injunctions affective by taking action."
In a statement late Tuesday, Garneau said he’s been in touch with Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair, the transport ministers of Ontario and Quebec as well as the railways to try and find a solution.
Ruest said CN Rail was working closely with local authorities to enforce the court order injunctions.
"We have also engaged with customers, industry associations as well as officials in Ottawa and across Canada to explain to them the consequences and material impact that shutting down the railroad will have on their constituents,” Ruest said.
With a file from CTV News Montreal and The Canadian Press