CN Rail warns blockades will force 'significant' network shutdowns
The head of Canadian National Railway Co. is warning blockades in Ontario and British Columbia will cause disruption to the economy and will force the company to “imminently” shut down significant parts of its network unless they are removed.
The blockades near Belleville, Ont. and Prince Rupert, B.C. are tied to protests against the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project in northwestern B.C., and have been snarling rail traffic for almost a week.
The project crosses through the traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, which has recently served as a site for protests against the 670-kilometre pipeline.
“It’s not just passenger trains that are impacted by these blockades, it’s all Canadian supply chains,” JJ Ruest, president and CEO of CN Rail, said in a release Tuesday.
“We are currently parking trains across out 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.”
He also said the blockades are already slowing down the movements of goods like grain, propane and lumber. He warned that as a result, industries “will soon [be] faced with very difficult decisions.”
Ruest added that the company has obtained court injunctions for both blockade sites and is working with local enforcement agencies to enforce them.
This marks another potential major disruption to CN Rail operations in recent months, following an eight-day strike last November that halted shipments across the country.
CN Rail and Teamsters Canada, the union that represents the country’s rail workers, signed a three-year deal at the end of January, which renewed a collective agreement for more than 3,000 employees.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau told The Canadian Press that he is working with Canada’s rail operators and with Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney to solve the blockade, adding that blockage of the tracks is "dangerous and illegal."
- With files from The Canadian Press