CN Rail to shut down Eastern Canadian operations due to protests

People stand near the train tracks on day 8 of the train blockade in Canada

He accused Trudeau of refusing to call the protests illegal and allowing a small number of activists to hold the economy hostage while being overseas "on a vanity project" to win a United Nations vote.

The CN Rails routes are blocked due to protests against a pipeline that cuts through native lands.

CN, however, has said that the cessation of operations in Eastern Canada has the possibility of leading to "temporary layoffs within the company's Eastern Canadian operational staff".

Indigenous leaders in B.C.'s northwest have invited federal and B.C. politicians to meetings, while following through on a promise to ensure a blockade of CN Rail tracks near New Hazelton, B.C. would come down during talks.

CN Rail announced it would be shutting down all rail traffic in eastern Canada and Via Rail announced almost all passenger traffic across Canada will halt as aboriginal and far-leftist protesters continue blockades against a natural gas pipeline project.

Speaking earlier in the day, he told a news conference the government will respect the right to freedom of expression, but that Ottawa was concerned about illegal protests on rail lines across the country.

"It is about people's jobs and livelihoods and about the transport of key supplies, like food, propane for heating and chemicals for water treatment".

Garneau said he would be meeting with his provincial counterparts and Indigenous groups on Friday to discuss a way forward.

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Protesters erected the blockade in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, who oppose a major pipeline project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern British Columbia.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce called for an "immediate end" to the blockades.

"We can't just use force", he said in the legislature. "We need to allow the discussion to take place".

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on Friday called on Trudeau to act swiftly to end the protests and restore order.

Via Rail said more than 220 trains have been cancelled, affecting at least 34,200 passengers.

The union which represents over 16,000 workers in the rail industry says the CN shutdown could see up to 6,000 workers laid off. Teamsters Canada is calling on the federal government to intervene to find a solution.

Coastal GasLink has reached deals with 20 elected indigenous councils along the route to move ahead with construction, including some Wet'suwet'en councils, coming to agreements on training, employment, and community investment.

The survey also found that most Canadians, or 63 per cent, support further discussions between TC Energy, the company that owns the pipeline, and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. In December, the Supreme Court of B.C. granted an injunction against those blockades, leading to the RCMP's actions this month. 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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