TORONTO (AP) — Canadian National Railway Co. said Tuesday it will be forced to close significant parts of its Canadian network unless protest blockades impeding its rail lines are removed.
CN said more than 150 freight trains have been halted since Thursday evening, when demonstrators set up blockades in British Columbia and Ontario in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.
Via Rail said 157 passenger trains have also been cancelled, affecting 24,500 travelers on routes between Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto.
The ongoing blockades sit near Belleville, Ontario, and near New Hazleton in northwestern British Columbia, while other demonstrations cropped up Tuesday in locations ranging from the Halifax port to the British Columbia legislature.
Industry groups are also expressing concern about the shutdown, with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association urging government officials to work with police to restore rail service.
“It’s real crisis,” said Joel Neuheimer, head of international trade with the Forest Products Association of Canada.
Wood, pulp and paper producers have lost tens of millions of dollars so far, he said.
“We ship massive amounts of pulp to the United States and to places like Asia, so big negative impacts there,” Neuheimer said.
CN chief executive JJ Ruest stressed the limited parking space in its network, with traffic backed up from Halifax to Windsor, Ontario, and in parts of B.C. approaching Prince Rupert.
“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,” Ruest said in a statement. “The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner.”
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association is urging government officials to work with police to restore rail service.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and blockage of tracks is “dangerous and illegal.”