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News > Canada

Canada: 1,000 Rail Employees Laid-off Due to Railway Blockade

  • Indigenous anti-pipeline blockade, British Columbia, Canada, February 2020.

    Indigenous anti-pipeline blockade, British Columbia, Canada, February 2020. | Photo: Twitter: @democracynow

Published 21 February 2020

Via Rail has also canceled 530 passenger trains since February 6 due to the protests.

Canada's passenger train service company, Via Rail, temporarily laid off 1,000 employees, while indigenous groups continue to block roads in several parts of the country.


Protests Continue Against Gas Pipeline Construction in Canada

 "The layoffs are due to the cancellation of services that have taken place in much of our passenger transportation network," the government company Via Rail reported Thursday.

Via Rail has also been forced to cancel 530 passenger trains since February 6, when protests began in Canada in support of Wet'suwet's hereditary chiefs, who oppose the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Indigenous territory.

Because of the temporary mass layoffs, and the absence of circulation of hundreds of trains, "for the last two weeks, the passenger transportation service on the Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto routes have been suspended," said the company's general director Cynthia Garneau in a statement.


For Garneau, the decisions "are unprecedented in the history of Via Rail. In the 42 years of the company's existence, it is the first time that an intercity public passenger rail service has interrupted most of its services throughout the country.

Via Rail's decisions come amid growing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to take action against blockages that have disrupted rail service across the country.

"We are not asking you to stop defending your communities, your rights, and your beliefs," Trudeau said in Parliament during a speech that was interrupted by booing.

"We're just asking you to be willing to work with the federal government as a partner in finding solutions."

Native leaders have expressed their support to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline construction, acknowledging it as a fundamental economic asset for the country. Still, they refuse to compromise their ancestral territories and resources, like forests or rivers. 

Meanwhile, a Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief said that "they will not meet with the federal government about their opposition to the pipeline until both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Coastal GasLink leave our territory."

Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair assured that the Trudeau government won't issue an ultimatum to remove the blockades.

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