Via Rail temporarily laying off 1,000 workers after Wet’suwet’en blockades

Daniel Fowler
February 20, 2020

Via Rail has received authorization from CN Rail, which operates the track Via uses, to resume partial service on some routes. After weeks of cancellations and the withdrawal of services, there is going to be some movement along railways.

All trains running between Toronto-London-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Niagara will resume service but may face delays for operational and safety reasons.

Via Rail has announced a partial resumption of train traffic on the corridor between Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City Thursday morning but nearly all of its other service remains cancelled, including trips from the capital to Toronto halted by a blockade in the Belleville area.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt says conservatives are angry the prime minister hasn't ordered police to try to stop the blockades considering the major economic impact, "not just VIA rail being disrupted, but manufactured goods, agricultural goods, oil and gas goods", he says.

"We recognize that these are a result of external factors outside both the employer and the union's control, and expect these to be temporary disruptions", Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a statement.

Other Via Rail services are not operating with the exception of Sudbury-White River and Churchill-The Pas until the end of day Thursday.

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"We remain hopeful for an end to the situation as soon as possible and encourage all relevant parties to continue their efforts towards a peaceful resolution", VIA Rail said.

As of Tuesday, Via said the rail blockades have led to the cancellation of 532 regularly scheduled passenger trains.

VIA Rail's complete stoppage came after almost a week of solidarity protests happening on or beside the tracks in Ontario, forcing the company to stop trains from running.

Bennett says he is also ready to meet with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, should they give the go-ahead.

The blockades are in support of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, and in opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

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