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Anti-pipeline protest in Mi'kmaq community shuts down rail line in eastern Quebec

The president of a railway company in northern Quebec says protesters blocking the rail line in a First Nations community in support of the blockade against the Coastal GasLink pipeline are costing his company about $15,000 a day in revenue. A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist'ot'en camp on a remote logging road near Houston, B.C., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

MONTREAL — The president of a railway company in eastern Quebec says anti-pipeline protesters blocking the rail line in a First Nations community are costing his company about $15,000 a day in revenue.

About five or six people from the Mi’kmaq community of Listuguj, about 525 kilometres northeast of Quebec City by the New Brunswick border, have set up a campsite a few feet away from the tracks, said Eric Dube, president of the Chemin de fer de la Gaspesie.

The protest in Listuguj is among the Canada-wide demonstrations that have sprung up since last week in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in northern British Columbia who are attempting to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline. Protests have disrupted commercial and commuter rail traffic across the country.

Dube said he spoke to a couple of protesters Wednesday. “It seems like they are going to be there a while,” he said in an interview. “They are very determined.”

Director of public security for Listuguj, Peter Arsenault, said his department has no plan to remove the “small occupancy” of people from his community who were camping by the rail line. He said the police force doesn’t want to escalate things.

“Right now we aren’t trying to cause a chain reaction,” he said in an interview. “We are going to allow it to run its course, and hopefully it comes to a peaceful conclusion.”

Arsenault said the police will take their cues from the band council as to when to remove the protesters. He said he didn’t know how long the council planned on letting the protest continue.

The blockades began last week after the RCMP enforced an injunction against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who were blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada export project.

Dube, who is also mayor of New Richmond, Que., said his railway company operates from Matapedia to New Richmond, located on the southern shore of the Gaspe peninsula. The railway primarily transports cement, wood and wind turbine blades.

He said he has a shipment of turbine blades loaded and scheduled to leave for Texas on Saturday, but the cargo won’t be going anywhere if the blockade persists.

Dube called on the federal and provincial government to find a solution.

This report by The Canadian Press was published on Feb. 14, 2020.

Giuseppe Valiante , The Canadian Press