CN shuts down eastern Canada railway network

With over 400 trains stopped this week alone

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One of the country’s two major railways is shutting down its operations in eastern Canada.

In a release issued Thursday afternoon, CN Rail announced a “progressive and orderly” shutdown of its operations in eastern Canada.

“CN sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the illegal blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia,” read the release.

“While the illegal blockades have come to an end in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in British Columbia, the orders of the court in Ontario have yet to be enforced and continue to be ignored.”

Last Thursday, supporters of protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline project crossing Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory near Houston, B.C. blockaded railway traffic in both that province and Ontario.

A railway blockade in Winnipeg reportedly came to an end Thursday.

Protesters also blocked access to major ports across Canada, as well as either occupying or blocking access to government offices.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors,” said CN president and CEO JJ Ruest in the release.

“This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely.”

Rail blockades adjacent to Tyendinaga Mohawk territory also cancelled hundreds of VIA rail passenger trains since Tuesday.

On Thursday afternoon, VIA — which runs the majority of their trains on CN track — announced the cancellation of all train trips across the country, with company reps telling frustrated customers on Twitter they’d received full refunds.

This shutdown doesn’t impact VIA service between Sudbury and White River, Ont. or Churchill and The Pas in Manitoba as both operate on non-CN rails.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins tells the Sun that GO Train and UP Express service will continue to operate.

“It’s business as usual,” she said, but stressed that it’s always a good idea to check ahead.

Ruest added in his statement that Metrolinx would be permitted to continue service “as long as they can do so safely,” Ryest.

CN’s action will idle all transcontinental trains, and trigger temporary layoffs across running trades employees in eastern Canada and impacting billions of dollars in goods and trade.

Layoffs due to the job action have already started, one CN employee tells the Toronto Sun. 

“I know many who haven’t been able to go to work for a week,” the employee said, asking his name be withheld to protect his job.

“Money not being made, food being taken off the table to feed their families. I’m all for protesting, heck we did it in November, but when it starts to affect others jobs and livelihoods, it’s embarrassing.”


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