CN says blockades will force it to shut down much of Canadian network

Protests have stopped traffic at Belleville, Ontario, and in British Columbia
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MONTREAL — Canadian National says a shutdown of significant parts of its Canadian network is imminent “unless the blockades on its rail lines are removed.”

The blockades, which Feb. 6 near Belleville, Ontario, have spread to other locations throughout Canada. They are in response to and support of an indigenous group’s protest over construction of a pipeline through the territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia.

CN is dealing with blockades at Belleville — the only eastern link between Eastern Canada and Western Canada, and between Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest, the railroad notes — as well as its line in British Columbia between Prince George and Prince Rupert. The Belleville blockade has also disrupted VIA Rail Canada service between Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.

“It’s not just passenger trains that are impacted by these blockades, it’s all Canadian supply chains” Canadian National CEO JJ Ruest said in a statement. “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 movement of commodities including food, construction materials, and propane are being disrupted, that the Port of Prince Rupert is “effectively already shut down” and that oports in Montreal and Halifax are also feeling the impact. Ruest said the railroad has obtained court injunctions for both locations and is “working with local enforcement agencies to enforce the orders.

“We have also engaged with customers, industry associations as well as officials in Ottawa and across Canada to explain to them the consequences and material impact that shutting down the railroad will have on their constituents,” he said.

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