Protesters blocking Via Rail tracks force train cancellations for fourth straight day
TORONTO -- Protesters in Belleville, Ont. continue to block Via Rail tracks forcing train cancellations between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa for a fourth day in a row.
The blockade took over the tracks last Thursday in solidarity with demonstrators in northwest B.C. where Indigenous people and supporters are protesting the construction of a pipeline that crosses Wet'suwet'en territory, where the RCMP has arrested several people demonstrating.
“We will stay right here until they try to remove us … we are protectors of the Mother Earth,” one protester told CTV News Toronto in Belleville. “We are here to support our brothers and sisters out west … I’m here with everybody else to stand up for our rights.”
On Monday, Via Rail said the protesters continue to block the tracks and that none of the affected routes will operate until the issue is resolved.
"111 trains were cancelled since the beginning of the blockade," Via Rail said in a statement on Monday. "The total number of passengers impacted at that point is at least 19.500."
VIA Rail told CTV News Toronto on Monday night that all departures prior to 2 p.m. on Feb. 11 are cancelled between Montreal-Toronto, Toronto-Ottawa, Toronto-Kingston.
Customers are being asked to check Via Rail's website for service updates. The company said it will be automatically refunding all tickets affected by the disruption.
The Ontario Provincial Police said that they are also monitoring the protests.
Staff-Sgt. Carolle Dionne told CTV News Monday that police are currently monitoring the situation along the tracks and no one has been removed.
“We have no role to play in underlying issues, nor are we in a position to resolve them,” said Dionne.
She said they respect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
“Our primary goal is to preserve the peace and maintain a safe environment,” said Dionne.
On Saturday, protesters in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en First Nation blocked the Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail tracks at Bartlett Avenue in Toronto’s west end.
In a news release, the group behind the demonstration said they chose the CP tracks as the site of their protest due to the company’s involvement in transporting pipeline materials to B.C.
Canadian National Railway says it has been granted an injunction order to remove protesters from the site near Belleville.
Andrew Brant, of the nearby Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, said the protesters in Belleville are not worried about the injunction, and they will remain at the protest site until the RCMP leave Wet'suwet'en territory.
“We’re still standing here strong [and] supporting everybody, doesn’t matter what they do to us, what they say, [if] they try to move us,” Brant told CTV News Toronto.
“The [injunction] doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a piece of paper. To us, that is not our government; that’s not our law, so when they serve it to us, it’s just a piece of paper.”
He said many people have come by the site to show their solidarity and support.
“It made me feel proud as an indigenous person seeing all these people rise up and you can feel it in the air," he said.
“What the real fight is about is the unceded territory that they [the pipeline] are going through … the hereditary chiefs are in charge of that land and what they are trying to do is protect it.”
With files from The Canadian Press