Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he hopes negotiations will end the anti-pipeline protests that have brought much of Canada’s passenger and freight railway transportation to a halt – and that it’s up to the provinces to enforce the court injunctions that declared the blockades illegal.
“We must engage with the First Nations and we must also make the point that we are a country that works based on the rule of law, so it is that approach that we believe will yield results,” Mr. Garneau told reporters at a news conference Friday in Toronto, where he is attending a meeting of his provincial counterparts.
A handful of blockades went up a week ago to back the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern British Columbia, prompting Canada’s largest freight rail carrier, Canadian National Railway Co., to suspend operations on its network east of Toronto Thursday, a move that could lead to as many as 6,000 layoffs. Via Rail also said Thursday that it was cancelling most of its passenger services.
Mr. Garneau said enforcement of the court injunctions allowing the removal of blockades is the responsibility of the provincial solicitors general. “They are in control of that situation,” he said. “But the injunctions have to be respected because we’re a country of the rule of law.”
The loss of freight service has prompted worries about low supplies of chlorine for water treatment, propane for home heating and other shortages.
“The vast majority of goods that we have and use and purchase in stores travel by rail,” Mr. Garneau said. “This also greatly affects our ability to rely on passenger rail to travel across the country for work or for family reasons. The impact of this issue affects each and every Canadian. However, one thing is clear: the path to resolution of this issue is through dialogue and seeking to get consensus.”
Mr. Garneau said the approach led to the dismantling of a blockade near New Hazelton, B.C. CN resumed freight traffic to and from the Port of Prince Rupert this morning, he said, reopening a key gateway to Asian markets that supply consumer goods to much of North America. “It is worth noting that the reopening of this line will allow the resumption of activity at the Port of Prince Rupert, where 40 per cent of the work force is Indigenous.”
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