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VIA Rail, CN, suspend service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal over protest near Belleville

Last Updated Feb 13, 2020 at 1:31 pm MST

A VIA Rail employee stands on the platform next to a F40 locomotive at the train station in Ottawa on December 3, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

More cancellations for VIA Rail passengers and freight service, as protesters of a pipeline project in British Columbia continue to block the tracks in Belleville.

VIA says it has now cancelled all service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal until the end of day tomorrow.

It says affected passengers will receive an email and a full refund.

The protesters have been blocking rail traffic since last Thursday – in a show of support of a major natural gas project crossing the territory of the Wet’suet’en First Nation.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is offering to meet with three Indigenous leaders in Ontario as the federal government seeks a solution to rail blockades in several areas of the country.

Miller calls the situation volatile.

In exchange for the meeting, he asks for an end to protests and barricades that have halted some passenger and freight service through Ontario and Quebec.

Miller’s letter, posted online, says he hopes the leaders will agree to the meeting “in the spirit of peace and co-operation that should guide our relationship.”

The offer includes a proposal to meet wherever the Indigenous leaders choose and comes after the Assembly of First Nations and Opposition politicians urged the Liberal government to take swifter and firmer action to defuse tensions over the pipeline.

One of the three recipients of the letter says he expects a meeting between Miller and the Mohawk community will take place.

Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle says the meeting will proceed but he can’t comment on the blockade because it wasn’t initiated by council.

Maracle says they’re happy that the minister has agreed to come.

“We need to allow the discussion to take place.”

Protesters have taken down a blockade of the CN Rail line west of Winnipeg.

However, the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition says there will be more action to come in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline running through their territory.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he would be asking the courts for an injunction to remove the blockade, but CN obtained its own court order that was served today.

Pallister says the illegal protests are hurting the economy and he wants a conference call with his fellow premiers to demand the federal government clear up the approval process for pipelines and other resource projects.