Via Rail strike averted with last minute deal with Unifor)

VIA Rail unable to resume partial service in Eastern Canada, B.C. blockades expected to come down

MONTREAL — Although confirming earlier this week that it had obtained authorization from CN Rail to resume partial and regular service between key travel corridors, VIA Rail has announced that it has “no choice” but to continue the cancellation of its services.

With the exception of the Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway) lines, VIA Rail is proceeding with temporary work suspensions until CN Rail opens the remaining tracks for service.

Close to 1,000 VIA Rail employees has been temporarily laid off due to blockades that continue to halt trains on CN tracks in Eastern Canada. The layoffs come amid growing pressure on the federal government to take action against rail blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline that is to pass through their traditional lands in British Columbia.

VIA was to resume partial service between Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa, as well as full service between Toronto-London-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia and Toronto-Niagara on Thursday morning. News of the continued cancellation broke Wednesday night, just hours before the resumption of service.

Due to a new blockade near St-Lambert, Quebec, all trains between Montreal and Quebec City are now cancelled until Friday, Feb. 21, end of day. Passengers meant to travel on these trains are being contacted.

“This general interruption is an unprecedented situation in our history. In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger rail service, has to interrupt most of its services across the country,” declared Cynthia Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been closely working with the infrastructure owner in order to formulate a progressive, safe and orderly resumption plan. We have done everything to mitigate the impact on our employees and our passengers. At this point, we believe we have made the fairest and most reasonable decision with the proposed temporary suspension plan. I would like to thank all our union partners for their collaboration and comprehension.”

Meanwhile, on Canada’s west coast, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP in British Columbia have met conditions set by traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation opposing the pipeline project in their territory.

He says he believes barricades set up in solidarity with the nation should come down.


With file from The Canadian Press