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CN granted Alberta-wide injunction amidst rail line blockades
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2020 6:25AM MST Last Updated Thursday, February 20, 2020 9:10AM MST
EDMONTON -- An Alberta justice granted a province-wide injunction to CN Rail Wednesday afternoon, hours after a group blocked the company's line west of Edmonton.
CN was granted the 30-day order, with an option to extend it or vary it, after arguing the blockade is a safety hazard and would have a significant negative impact on CN’s business and its customers.
Lawyers told court CN moves $135 million of freight through its Edson Subdivison each day, including perishable and flammable goods.
When granting the injunction, Justice Paul Belzil said it’s significant that CN is not involved directly in the dispute between the federal government and indigenous groups.
The blockade was set up at Range Road 261 and 110 Avenue near Acheson, Alta., by the group Cuzzins for Wet'suwet'en. The estimated two dozen protesters started building the blockade before 5 a.m. in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
"Our focus is to get Coastal GasLink to respect Wet'suwet'en law and remove themselves from their territory, along with the royal colonial mounted police, to remove themselves from the territory," a spokesperson for the group who called himself Poundmaker said. "We're planning on staying here until those demands are met."
By noon, several vehicles had passed through the area with some drivers occasionally stopping to engage those on the tracks.
At one point, a man who identified himself as an oilfield worker of 22 years approached the group.
"You know how much this protest, this pipeline nonsense has cost me so far?" he asked.
One of the protesters replied, "Do you know how much it cost the Wet'suwet'en to be forcibly removed from their own community, their own land?"
He continued to explain, "We're trying to make sure this is right, not wrong. We're trying to make sure they understand that they have supporters all over, not just in B.C."
"This is not the solution," the man replied. "There's thousands of people that are losing their jobs becuase of this. You're making more poverty. Why? Why ruin things for the people that are trying to f****** get ahead? Everybody wants to get ahead in life."
CN RAIL SEEKING INJUCTION AGAINST BLOCKADES
On Wednesday, Via Rail said it had "no choice" but to issue temporary layoff notices to nearly 1,000 employees while rail blockades were ongoing. Via Rail's passenger service has been suspended across Canada, and CN Rail has shut down its eastern rail netowrk.
Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in a statement on Twitter the protests would "not be tolerated" and that Alberta supported the injunction sought by CN Rail.
The cross-country protests are a show of solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project through their territory.
The Chiefs of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations are among those who have expressed their support. On Wednesday, they issued a statement calling upon law enforcement to ensure the safety of the protesters, RCMP to leave Wet'suwet'en territory, and Canada's Prime Minister and B.C.'s premier to meet with the Wet'suwet'en people.
"Canadians like Andrew Scheer and anyone else who believes that this should be resolved through force, should check their privilege," the letter, signed by Grand Chief Bill Morin, reads.
'RECONCILIATION DOES NOT MEAN ALLOWING A COUPLE OF PEOPLE TO SHUT DOWN THE NATIONAL ECONOMY': KENNEY
However, that the project has been approved by elected band councils along the route needs to be respected, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday.
"Enough is enough. It's time for the decisions made by First Nations to be respected in this regard," the premier told media at an event in Calgary.
"Reconciliation does not mean allowing a couple of people to shut down the national economy. Reconciliation means listening with respect, ensuring Indigenous people get a chance to benefit from responsible benefit and move their people from poverty to prosperity."
Indigenous leaders called on the federal government Tuesday to work with the hereditary chiefs to find a mutually beneficial solution.
There was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on that night, called by the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced criticism for his approach so far and preached patience.
Kenney said he would be talking with Canada's premiers Wednesday afternoon about the Coastal GasLink protests.
While a lawyer for CN was in court, the blockade near Acheson was being dismantled, seemingly by both protesters and counter protesters.
Earlier in the day, one group announced plans to counter protest at the Acheson location. United We Roll, a group that rallied support for the energy industry by organizing a convoy to Ottawa last year, said it would be leaving the Red Deer at 2:30 p.m. to arrive at the blockade.
With files from Kelsey Dyer, Alex Antoneshyn, Matt Marshall, Evan Klippenstein and Sarah Plowman.