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CN Rail temporarily laying off around 450 employees due to pipeline protests

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 19th, 2020

Canadian National Railway is temporarily laying off around 450 of its employees in response to nationwide blockades erected in opposition to a British Columbia pipeline project.

The affected staff work in the company’s eastern Canada operations department.

“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,” CN Rail said in a statement.

“Unfortunately … we had to send notices of temporary layoffs (approx. 450) to some of our Eastern Canadian operational staff, including employees working at Autoport in Eastern Passage, Moncton, Charny and Montreal.”

“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.”

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory, though it’s received approval from elected band councils.

Since the RCMP moved in to enforce an injunction and keep the hereditary chiefs and their supporters away from the pipeline worksites, protests by Indigenous people and supporters have shut down the CN rail network in eastern Canada, suspended most Via Rail passenger service, and temporarily blocked traffic on streets and bridges and at ports in multiple cities.

On Tuesday night, VIA Rail announced that service in southwestern Ontario would resume on Thursday morning.

“Beginning Thursday morning, February 20, all trains running between Toronto-London-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Niagara will resume service,” VIA said in a release. “For operational and safety reasons, please note that trains may encounter certain delays.

“Since all other VIA Rail services are not operating until further notice, with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), VIA Rail has cancelled all affected departures until the end of the day on Thursday, February 20, and all customers will be receiving a cancellation notice.”

VIA Rail says as of today, 532 trains have been cancelled because of the blockades, affecting more than 103,000 passengers.

With files from The Canadian Press

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