By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canada’s CN Rail announced Wednesday that it will lay off 1,000 workers due to the two-week-long blockades of parts of its network by Indigenous protestors and their supporters which have crippled the country’s ability to move essential goods.
The laid-off employees work for Via Rail, CN’s passenger train division, which has been curtailed by blockades like the one at Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory about two hours east of Toronto and the main line from Toronto to Montreal and Ottawa.
The protesters are showing support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who are against a natural gas pipeline project that goes through their lands in British Columbia on Canada’s west coast.
Also Wednesday, the five hereditary chiefs announced they are leaving from British Columbia by plane to meet with the Tyendinaga protesters.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is doing its best to find a solution that will end the blockades because he is concerned about the negative impact on Canada’s economy.
“We’re working extremely hard to resolve this situation,” he said. “We know that people are facing shortages, are facing disruptions, they’re facing layoffs. That’s unacceptable.”
While CN has obtained court injunctions to have the blockades removed and protesters arrested if they refuse to disband, the Ontario Provincial Police has so far declined to act on the injunctions.
Conservative Party Opposition leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau’s failure to take action has energized the protesters. CN was seeking another court injunction to remove a new blockade in Edmonton, Alberta.
But Trudeau said police action is the wrong approach.
“We need to resolve it not just for today and tomorrow, but for the weeks and months to come,” he said. “The approach the leader of the opposition is proposing would not ensure jobs and stability for Canadians in the future. We’re focused on resolving it peacefully.”
The hereditary chiefs said the protests will continue until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who are protecting the pipeline’s construction, leave Wet’suwet’en lands.
One idea being considered is to replace the RCMP with Indigenous police, Trudeau said.