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TransLink suspends West Coast Expresss service after Wet'suwet'en sympathizers block Pitt River rail bridge

Straight 2020-02-14 11:26:01

TransLink's time-saving and comfy commuter rail service won't be taking any passengers to the northeast sector of Metro Vancouver or Mission during today's rush hour.

That's because supporters of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have staged a blockade on the Canadian Pacific tracks on the Pitt River rail bridge.

"We have been advised by Canadian Pacific Railway Police that we will not be able to run any more West Coast Express service today," TransLink said in a media statement. "At this point, we are asking customers to use SkyTrain and bus instead. CMBC is examining options for additional bus service and details will follow."


TransLink is scrambling to provide alternative service to people who ordinarily rely on the West Coast Express.

According to the Red Braid Alliance, the rail blockade "is part of a Wet'suwet'en defence movement that is spreading as Indigenous nations blockade rail lines, exercising their sovereign control over their territories".

"The Wet’suwet’en nation’s heroic land and sovereignty defence has started a movement that is focused on defending the Wet’suwet’en nation, but which has quickly taken on a more radical, fundamental meaning," the group stated on its website. "The sustained rail blockades at Tyendinega, Treaty 1, and Gitxsan, as well as the urban blockades of rail, port, and highways, show that the united struggle against Canada’s settler colonial violence is growing, not going away."

Earlier today, Via Rail annnounced that it was suspending most of its passenger service in Canada. It says it might take 15 days for people to receive refunds.

CN Rail has decided to conduct an "orderly shutdown of its Eastern Canadian network" because of a Mohawk blockade near Belleville, Ontario. The Mohawks say they did this to support the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

The Ontario Federation of Labour has also expressed its support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation solidarity protests.

All of these actions came in the wake of the RCMP enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction last week on unceded traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink obtained the court order so it could proceed with a 670-kilometre natural-gas pipeline from northern B.C. to Kitimat.

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say that Coastal GasLink's $6.6-billion natural gas pipeline is against their law.

In 1997, the hereditary chiefs successfully argued in a Supreme Court of Canada for the continued existence of Aboriginal title post-Confederation. The B.C. government had argued that it was extinguished when the province joined Canada in 1871.

Despite the hereditary chiefs' opposition to the pipeline project, it was approved by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office. The company has signed agreements with 20 elected chiefs and councils along the pipeline route.

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he has spoken with B.C. premier John Horgan about the disruption to rail services across Canada.

"The Prime Minister and Premier discussed how freedom of expression is an important democratic right, but activity must respect the courts and act within the law," said Trudeau's statement. "The Prime Minister and Premier also discussed how progress on both climate change and reconciliation must continue to be at the forefront of all government actions."

Update #1

Speaker Darryl Plecas has obtained a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against anyone who blocks entrances to the B.C. legislature. 

This follows a large rally earlier this week by supporters of hereditary chiefs that shut down the morning session.

Update #2

Canadian Pacific Railway has told TransLink that it can't operate the West Coast Express on Friday (February 14) morning. Because the tracks are still being blocked on the Pitt River Rail Bridge, TransLink cannot move trains, perform routine inspections, or conduct maintenance.

"To help assist customers during the morning commute, we will set up a bus bridge for customers travelling from Mission to Coquitlam Central Station," TransLink stated in a media update at 7:33 p.m. "Please note that buses are expected to be busier than normal. We ask that customers try and seek alternative modes of travel, use our Trip Planner online, or our customer information desk (604-953-3333) for trip planning advice."