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'Nearing a crisis situation': Rail blockades creating backlogs for farmers
Published Monday, February 17, 2020 7:07AM MST Last Updated Monday, February 17, 2020 9:35AM MST
EDMONTON -- Millions of tonnes of grain are stuck in the Prairies because of the rail blockades in support of the Wet'suwet'en Nation and opposition within that community to a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.
The organization representing Alberta wheat and barley producers says the dispute is impacting farmers' incomes and Canada's reputation as a supplier.
"It really is nearing a crisis situation for many farmers in western Canada," Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions GM Tom Steve told CTV News.
The group is concerned Ottawa hasn't taken decisive action to end the blockades.
"We need to see and hear from the senior ministers in the government that the laws of Canada will be enforced," Steve said. "What we're seeing is a negotiated settlement at the moment and that concerns us."
Roughly 45-million tonnes of grain is moved out of Canada each year. Any interruption in service has a dramatic impact.
CN Rail shut down its eastern network last week. VIA Rail suspended its passenger service nation-wide.
The group says even if freight service started again in a week, it would still take weeks or even months for farmers to recover from the backlog.
The organization says western Canadian farmers are already dealing with devastating harvest conditions, poor grain prices and trade uncertainty.
Meanwhile, B.C.'s and Ottawa's Indigenous relations ministers were scheduled to meet in Victoria Monday to discuss the ongoing blockades, a meeting which Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline were invited to.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would meet with the Incident Response Group, an emergency committee that convenes in the event of "a national crisis."