Via Rail says its passenger rail service between Montreal and Toronto and between Ottawa and Toronto is cancelled on Tuesday, marking the sixth consecutive day of service disruption since protesters began blocking a rail line near Belleville, Ont.
The protests in New Hazelton and Belleville are in support of eight Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who were blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory from January 3 until Thursday when RCMP began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to remove them.
The Montreal-based railway said Monday that long-distance freight shipments in Central and Eastern Canada were already virtually frozen. "Without trains moving, there is lots of concern we're starting to hear in the community, and it's important to understand where we come from. there are 6,000 jobs that are involved in the transportation system, that are in Prince Rupert but also in places like Terrace, Smithers, and across northern B.C., and all of those jobs are reliant on the reliability and the service that the Port of Prince Rupert has developed over the last number of years.We're hopeful that a peaceful resolution can be reached and we can get back to operating".
The impact is being felt beyond Canada's borders, CN said.
Twenty-eight people were arrested along the road for violating a court injunction granted to the company, sparking protests across the country.
"It's a real crisis", said Joel Neuheimer, head of worldwide trade with the Forest Products Association of Canada.
"Many people in Canada don't really understand - they think it is just a fight against the pipeline". "They can't get their stuff out".
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and that the blockage of tracks is "dangerous and illegal".
Despite the countrywide impact, he underscored that responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with provincial politicians and police.
In terms of the impact on the economy as a whole, one of the most recent examples of the ripple effects of shuttering railways was the CN strike last November, which prompted the temporary closure of Canada's largest potash mine and some short-term layoffs at CN itself.
Unwilling to send trains so close to the blockade, Via Rail has cancelled all service from Toronto to and from Ottawa and Montreal, affecting thousands of passengers.
A video on social media appears to show protesters in Tyendinaga burning the injunction.
The delivery of goods ranging from oil to auto parts to yogurt are at risk of serious delays as railway blockades and growing protests against the construction of a pipeline in Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C. approach the one-week mark.
Brendan Marshall, head of economic and northern affairs at the Mining Association of Canada, said buyers of natural resource products were as vulnerable as producers - some of whom are already curtailing production.