Canadian National ‘pleased’ as rail blockade ends

A photograph of tank cars on a rail track. One of the tank cars has a Canadian flag hanging from it. Written on the flag are the words, "no justice on stolen native land."

Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) expressed relief Monday that a rail blockade that had prevented freight trains from moving between Toronto and Montreal is over.

Canadian National (CN) “is pleased that the illegal blockade in Tyendinaga has come to an end. The track is currently being inspected for the safety of the public and our employees,” CN said in a statement. “We are also monitoring our network for any further disruptions at this time.”

Protesters began blocking portions of the freight rail network after Feb. 6 in support of a First Nations group’s objections to a proposed pipeline location in British Columbia. A blockade in Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ontario, began in solidarity with efforts by the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia to fight the proposed route of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline through their territory in British Columbia.

But the blockades have brought freight to a standstill on a key portion of CN’s network for more than two weeks, causing supply chain disruptions throughout Canada.

Earlier Monday morning, Ontario Provincial Police moved to enforce a court injunction and remove the protest encampments near Belleville after a midnight deadline expired to clear the area. 

The blockade near Bellevillle is significant because it contributed to CN’s decision to shut down its eastern operations. Passenger rail service was also cancelled for a period of time.

Government leaders have been pressing for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

“The barricades had to come down because they were having a profound effect on the economy,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Monday outside a Cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.

“We’re focused on ending the blockades and supporting the Canadians impacted across the country,” Trudeau tweeted earlier Monday. “I called opposition leaders earlier today to give them an update on the situation and the work we’re continuing to do to find a peaceful and lasting resolution.”

This story is developing. FreightWaves Canadian correspondent Nate Tabak contributed to this report.