Port of Halifax hoping to keep cargo moving during CN Rail shutdown

A Canadian National train. Image Flickr  Jim Hamilton

As rail blockades continue across Canada as a part of Indigenous rights and anti-pipeline demonstrations, the Trudeau government is encouraged by signs of progress as the opposition Conservatives lash out at protesters.

CN Rail says in a statement it has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says protest blockades shutting down rail service across Canada are quickly creating a full-blown economic crisis.

Under pressure to end the blockades, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the disruptions must be resolved through talks, not by ordering police to dismantle blockades.

Those protests have led to arrests by the RCMP.

"This is a complex situation and I think that that does not indicate an understanding of the situation", he said.

"We're concerned with the rule of law and we need to make sure that those laws are followed", Trudeau said.

This week has seen nationwide civil unrest in support of hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en, who are attempting to block the route of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

The elected band council of the Wet'suwet'en, meanwhile, have approved of the project along with all 20 other First Nations councils who represent territories where the pipeline will pass through.

Railway shippers called on the prime minister to "act decisively" to prevent a complete shutdown of Canada's rail system.

He accused Trudeau of refusing to call the protests illegal and allowing a small number of activists to hold the economy hostage while being overseas "on a vanity project" to win a United Nations vote.

"Due to the current inability to move railcars of propane to supply our branches in Central and Eastern Canada, we predict that in the coming days we will begin to experience supply shortages to many areas of the country that rely on propane to heat and power their homes and businesses, including many essential services such as hospitals and retirement homes", said Greg McCamus, Superior Propane president.

Deputy MP of Ville-Marie-Le-Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs (Teiontiakon) and Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, has agreed to meet with two Chiefs in Tyendinaga Saturday, February 15 to discuss the barricade of the train tracks.

"It seems like they are going to be there a while", he said.

Garneau, who was meeting his provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as representatives of national Indigenous organizations, stressed the desire for peaceful resolutions.

About five or six people from the Mi'kmaq community of Listuguj have set up a campsite about a metre from the tracks, said Eric Dube, president of the Gaspesie Railway Society.

Teamsters Canada, the country's largest union in the transportation sector, also called on the federal government to intervene. "With the suspension of all rail service east of Toronto, we will soon not be able to keep up with capacity", McCamus said.

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