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CN will close 'significant parts' of network unless anti-pipeline blockades are removed

CN said it will be forced to shut down significant parts of its rail network if blockades in Ontario and B.C. are not removed. (Getty Images)

Canadian National Railway Co. said it will have to shut down “significant parts” of its rail network in Canada unless the anti-pipeline blockades set up in Ontario and B.C. are removed.

Canada’s largest railway said in a statement released Tuesday that the blockades set up near Belleville, Ont., and between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C., have brought rail activity at those locations to a standstill. Hundreds of trains have been cancelled, the company said, including freight and passenger trains.

“The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner,” CN said in a statement.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and that the blockage of tracks is “dangerous and illegal.”

Despite the countrywide impact, responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with provincial politicians and police, he noted.

CN’s chief executive JJ Ruest said in a statement that the company has obtained court injunctions for both locations and it is working with local agencies to enforce the orders. He also said that the network disruption could impact the transportation of a wide range of commodities, including food and consumer items, Canadian grain, propane to Quebec and Atlantic Canada and natural resources.

“It’s not just passenger trains that are impacted by these blockades, it’s all Canadian supply chains,” Ruest said.

“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.”

Demonstrators set up blockades in British Columbia and Ontario in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

Industry groups are expressing concern about the potential shutdown as shipments are delayed or cancelled.

Bob Masterson, the chief executive of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said in an interview that some of his members are one day away from halting production because goods cannot be shipped. Masterson also said that the blockades are exacerbating what has already been a slowed-down network.

CN’s potential shut down comes just days after Garneau issued a Ministerial Order requiring the slowdown of trains with 20 or more cars carrying dangerous goods following a derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway train carrying crude oil in Guernsey, Sask.

With files from the Canadian Press

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