Trudeau calls for immediate end to rail blockades

               File photo of Justin Trudeau

Toronto: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday indigenous barricades that are blocking rail service across Canada and hurting the economy have to come down now.

Trudeau said that court injunctions must be obeyed and that the situation is unacceptable and untenable and every attempt at dialogue has been made over the last two weeks.

Protesters later left a barricade site south of Montreal late Friday after riot police arrived.

They earlier had begun dismantling their encampment.

A spokesman for the protesters vowed that other blockades would appear, and protesters remained at other rail protests sites.

Demonstrators have set up blockades in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec in solidarity with opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern British Columbia.

Some hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural gas pipeline, though it has received approval from elected band councils.

Trudeau said some people can’t get to work and others have lost their jobs. He said there is no point making the same overtures to indigenous leaders if they aren’t accepted.

”We can’t have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table,” Trudeau said.

”The onus is on them.”

Via Rail, Canada’s passenger train service, said this week it is temporarily laying off 1,000 employees due to the continued halt in service on CN Rail’s tracks in eastern Canada caused by the blockades.

CN Rail also announced 450 temporary layoffs.

The crisis is daily stranding goods worth an an estimated 425 million Canadian dollars ($340 million), according to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade group.

Trudeau said the army won’t be called in, saying troops aren’t used against Canadian citizens.

He said removing the barricades must be done peacefully.

”Police have a job to do, but how they do that, when they do that, no politician gets to say,” he said.

The prime minister said officials have feared from the start that the situation could get worse and spent the last two weeks showing good faith in an effort to resolve the dispute.

He said it would be lamentable if there was violence when the barricades are taken down, but added that Canadians cannot continue to suffer as a result of the rail shut down.