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CN Rail shutting down eastern Canada lines, VIA cancels service over Indigenous blockade

Federal and provincial officials have told protesting Indigenous groups they are willing to meet with them to discuss their concerns – but their blockades will have to come down first.

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CN Rail announced Thursday afternoon they will start shutting down operations in eastern Canada because of an Indigenous blockade of tracks on Ontario.

CN said the move could results in layoffs.

And shortly after, VIA Rail announced they were cancelling all their services.

“This will include stopping and safely securing all trans-continental trains across its Canadian network and may imminently lead to temporary layoffs within the company’s Eastern Canadian operational staff,” CN said in a release.

“CN sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the illegal blockades in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. While the illegal blockades have come to an end in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in British Columbia, the orders of the court in Ontario have yet to be enforced and continue to be ignored. 

“The Company has tried to adjust its operations to serve customers in the face of these challenges, it is now left with the only remaining responsible option: progressively shutting down its Eastern Canadian operations until the illegal blockades end.”

CN President and CEO JJ Ruest said the company has had to cancel 400 trains in the last week.

A VIA Rail statement said: “VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel its services, effective immediately and until further notice.”

The moves came as federal and provincial officials have told protesting Indigenous groups they are willing to meet with them to discuss their concerns – but their blockades will have to come down first.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller made an email offer Thursday to a Mohawk band that have been blocking rail service on a rail line in southern Ontario — one of Canada’s busiest tracks.

Miller asked the Mohawks “to discontinue the protest and barricade of the train tracks as soon as practicable.

“As you well know, this is a highly volatile situation and the safety of all involved is of utmost importance to me,” Miller wrote in a the email to the Mohawks.

“I hope you will agree to this request and that we can meet in a spirit of peace and co-operation that should guide our relationship.”

Because of the rail blockade CN Rail has said they might be forced to close large swaths of tracks and that Canada’s global reputation as a reliable supplier was taking a hit.

Also, Via Rail has cancelled all passenger service in Central Canada through til Friday.

That blockade is one of many going on across the country that has seen buildings, roads and bridges blocked in protest of construction of the Global GasLink pipeline across Indigenous lands.

The protests have been growing across Canada since last Thursday when the RCMP raided and tore down an Indigenous camp near Smithers.

Thursday, the protesters at the main camp released a new video of RCMP action at the site.

Courtesy Gidimt’en Checkpoint





RCMP officer seen at Indigenous camp near Smithers, B.C.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said provincial Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser would meet with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on the condition they end their rail blockade of the Port of Prince Rupert.

Thursday afternoon an agreement had reportedly been reached that will see a meeting between the chiefs, federal and provincial ministers over that blockade.

The pipeline has the support of all First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, through which 28% of the 670-km route passes, oppose it.

A group of unelected hereditary chiefs had set up a camp near Smithers and have kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.

Courtesy Twitter

The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road. 

International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.

But the situation has been further complicated after a Jan. 3 edict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.

The RCMP checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”

The $6.6 billion pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, would transport gas from near Dawson Creek in northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the coast and supply Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas export terminal, called LNG Canada, which is under construction.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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MPs from B.C least likely to give their April 1 raises to charity

B.C was the most miserly in western Canada with only 48 per cent of MPs donating their increase.

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MPs from B.C. are the stingiest in western Canada when it comes to giving up their April 1 raises to charity.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation asked all 338 MP from across the country if they planned to give their salary increase to charity in light of the coronavirus crisis. A total of 120 replied.

This year, MPs are entitled to a 2.1 per cent hike, which will increase their base salaries by just over $3,750 to $182,656.

B.C was the most miserly in western Canada with only 48 per cent of MPs donating their increase.

Of 42 B.C. MPs, only 20 did so. That was made up of 12 Tory MPs, four Liberals, three NDP members and one independent.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh did not donate his increase nor did Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Elizabeth May

In Alberta, 24 of its 34 MPs, or 71 per cent, gave their raise to charity.

That includes 23 Tories and the lone NDP member.

In Saskatchewan, where the Tories swept the 14 available seats, 12 donated their increase for a mark of 86 per cent. Tory party leader Andrew Scheer did give up his raise.

And in Manitoba, where 14 seats were available 10 MPs made the choice to donate for a total of 71 per cent. That included 10 Tories, one NDP member and four Liberals.

Prime Minister Trudeau did make the decision to give up his raise. He earns $347,400.

“There’s no way politicians should be seeing a pay hike while countless Canadian families and businesses are struggling just to keep the lights on. It’s good to see many MPs turn down their pay bump, but there’s still MPs who haven’t confirmed whether or not they will accept a pay increase,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director of the CTF.

Franco Terrazzano

“Now would be the perfect time for politicians across the country to voluntarily reduce their own pay.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westewrnstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney announces $2-billion in infrastructure funding

“This will create thousands of good jobs,” Kenney said at a press conference in Edmonton.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday announced $2-billion in spending to fix provincial roads, bridges and fill potholes.

The money will also be used for fixing roofs, windows and doors in K-12 schools across the province.

Kenney said some of the cash would also be used for infrastructure fixes in the province’s post secondary education facilities and justice system.

“This will create thousands of good jobs,” Kenney said at a press conference in Edmonton.

“The good news for drivers is crews will be making sure roads are pothole free.”

Kenney repeated the Alberta economy is “in serious contraction” and will talk longer to recover.

“The government is doubling the capital maintenance and renewal (CMR) funding in 2020-21 from $937 million to $1.9 billion by accelerating the capital plan. This will allow government to act quickly and work with companies across the province so they can keep their workers employed during these challenging times,” the government said in a release.

“These infrastructure investments will be focused on projects that can be actioned quickly. By doubling our capital maintenance and renewal project funds, we will deliver much-needed improvements to important assets, keep companies operating and most importantly, keep Albertans working. As the weather improves and buildings are empty, now is the perfect time for us to act,” said Kenney

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westewrnstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Kenney wants to track COVID cases via smartphone

A spokesperson for Alberta’s privacy commissioner said the potential use of an app to monitor movements of citizens heightened privacy concerns.

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In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government would be willing to use technology to monitor the movements of Albertans who tested positive for COVID-19.

Such apps have been in use in China, Taiwan, and South Korea but have yet to be introduced to Western countries.

“I have been very clear; we intend to follow the lessons learned from successful countries like Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea to more quickly reopen our economy and the relaunch strategy involves, in part, the limited and appropriate use of wireless apps, of smartphone apps for individuals who are under quarantine orders,” the premier said Wednesday in response to a question in the Legislature from UCP MLA Shane Getson.

Using international travel as an example, Kenney said it would help the government to “know if that person is going to go home and stay home”.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s privacy commissioner said the potential use of an app to monitor movements of citizens heightened privacy concerns.

“There are several unknowns about how an app would be deployed and what laws would be engaged by doing so,” Scott Sibbald told Postmedia.

“Any option being considered is sure to have privacy implications that would require reasonable safeguards to protect personal or health information. The Commissioner expects to be consulted on the various initiatives being explored by the Government of Alberta.”

Across the border, Kentucky officials have opted to use ankle monitors for individuals who have tested positive but “refuse to stay home”.

Kenney’s brief statement did not suggest the app would be used for those who refused to follow public health orders but rather for the government to monitor their cellular location and be assured targeted Albertans were staying home.

“The thought the government is going to start tracing people everywhere they go is ridiculous,” Kenney said.

“To protect us from a second phase of the pandemic, we might have to do what Taiwan, (China), Singapore and South Korea have done … we want to make sure they’re actually following the quarantine.”

Numbers released from the Alberta government’s modelling on Wednesday suggest the peak of the pandemic will not happen until late May. A second wave, if it were going to happen, would likely come in the fall after physical distancing restrictions were reduced.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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