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CN shuts down eastern rail network, Via service

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Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, February 13, 2020 4:51PM EST


Last Updated Thursday, February 13, 2020 10:41PM EST

Blockades set up by anti-pipeline protesters have forced Canadian National Railway Co. to shut down its entire network in Eastern Canada and Via Rail to cancel passenger service across the country.

CN said Thursday that the company must initiate a “disciplined and progressive” shutdown in the East and stop and safely secure all transcontinental trains across its Canadian network.

Via Rail said it has no other option but to cancel all service on CN track in Canada. There were no more departures as of 4 p.m. eastern and all trains en route were brought to the closest major train station.

“We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel plans,” Via said in a news release.

Protesters across Canada say they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would cross the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern B.C.

CN said its shutdown may lead to temporary layoffs for eastern Canadian staff.

It has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for blockades in three provinces, but while blockades have been dismantled in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in B.C., a court order in Ontario has yet to be enforced.

More than 400 trains have been cancelled over the last week, said JJ Ruest, CN’s president and chief executive officer, in a news release.

“This situation is regrettable for its impact on the economy and on our railroaders as these protests are unrelated to CN’s activities, and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely.”

He said while Via service will be discontinued across CN’s network, commuter rail services such as Metrolinx and Exo can keep operating as long as they do so safely.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters after landing in Munich, Germany, that his government is monitoring the situation very closely and he had a long and productive conversation with B.C. Premier John Horgan on the plane.

“We’re concerned with the rule of law and we need to make sure that those laws are followed,” Trudeau said.

The B.C. and federal governments have agreed to meet with Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to discuss a blockade near New Hazelton, B.C.

Gitxsan hereditary chief Norm Stephens said the blockade will be dismantled during the talks but if the province doesn’t agree to cancel Coastal GasLink’s permit then it may go back up.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he is deeply concerned by the impact of the decision CN was forced to make and its effect on Via Rail.

“A safe and efficient passenger and freight rail service is critical to the well-being of our country,” Garneau said on Twitter.

Garneau said he would be meeting with his provincial counterparts and Indigenous groups on Friday to discuss a way forward.

He said all parties must engage in open and respectful dialogue to ensure this situation is resolved peacefully.

“We are encouraged by the progress on the blockade in New Hazelton. This is a positive development and we are actively working for a similar resolution on all remaining blockades.”

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route but the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say councils only have authority over reserve lands, not traditional territories that have never been ceded through a treaty.

“They got that permit by consulting with the band council,” said Stephens. “They have no authority on the hereditary chiefs’ land.”

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is also setting up a meeting with Indigenous leaders in an effort to halt a blockade near Belleville, Ont., which he called a “highly volatile situation.”

Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle said he expects the meeting will proceed but he can’t comment on Miller’s request to end the blockade because it wasn’t initiated by his council.

Railway shippers called on the prime minister to “act decisively” to prevent a complete shutdown of Canada’s rail system.

Delays caused by the blockades will have immediate consequences for farmers across the country, said Grain Growers of Canada chairman Jeff Nielsen.

“We are an industry that relies on export markets in order to survive and thrive. Without access to these markets via rail, we risk compounding further losses on top of what has already been a harvest from hell,” he said in a news release.

Canada’s forest products sector is responsible for 10 per cent of total tonnage moved along the country’s railway lines.

“Some companies are now in a position that they can’t guarantee delivery dates to customers – a massive business risk and a dark cloud over Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner,” said Derek Nighbor, president and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada.

Teamsters Canada, the country’s largest union in the transportation sector, also called on the federal government to intervene.

“Hundreds of our members have been out of work close to week. Now up to 6,000 of our members risk not being able to support their families or make ends meet this month, and they are powerless to do anything about it,” said National President Francois Laporte.

Passengers dealing with cancelled Via Rail trains at Toronto’s Union Station were disappointed but calm on Thursday evening. Ethan Sun and Angi Xhang, a Toronto-based couple, were headed to Montreal for a Valentine’s Day getaway. That route has been down for days, unbeknownst to them.

“We’re obviously very frustrated and disappointed, because we have our entire trip planned and we’re very excited for it, and it’s a long weekend,” said Xhang.

Jane Gooder was trying to get home to London, Ont., after working in Toronto through the week.

She said she’s found someone to come pick her up, but she was “gobsmacked” when she first heard all trains were cancelled.

“I just thought, ‘Where do I start? Do I stay over?’ And then they said, ‘Even if you stay over the next day there’s no guarantee, this could go on to next week,’ ” she said.

In Manitoba, protesters dismantled a blockade on an east-west CN Rail line near Winnipeg due to a court injunction but insisted that there would be more action to come.

Protesters in B.C. planned mass demonstrations at numerous government buildings on Friday, days after hundreds blocked the entrances to the legislature and chanted “Shame.”

However, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the province an injunction on Thursday afternoon authorizing police to arrest and remove anyone blocking entrances at the legislature.

TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, also said all West Coast Express commuter trains heading eastbound from downtown Vancouver to Mission were cancelled due to protesters blocking Canadian Pacific tracks.

– With files from Chris Purdy in Edmonton, Mia Rabson in Munich, Germany, Nicole Thompson and Ross Marowits in Toronto, David Reevely in Ottawa, Camille Bains in Vancouver and Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

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3 new COVID-19 outbreaks declared in Calgary | CTV News – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
Three new COVID-19 outbreaks were declared in Calgary on Friday, including 13 cases being reported from a private gathering, five cases at a Cargill meat processing facility and five at a childcare centre in the southwest.

An outbreak was also declared in the community of Fort Mackay in northeastern Alberta, with five cases being reported at CNRL Albian.

Alberta Health Services would not comment on where or when the private gathering was held but said of the 13 cases, nine are considered active and four recovered.

Five active cases were reported at the Cargill plant in the 0-100 block of Freeport Way N.E. 

Two active cases and three recovered cases were reported at Fledglings Educare Centre in the 1100 block of Canterbury Drive S.W.

An outbreak is declared in acute and long-term care facilities when there are two or more cases, and in a community setting when there are five or more cases. The outbreak is considered over when four weeks passes without any new cases being declared.

A total of 84 new cases were reported by the province on Friday, with 20 of those in the Calgary Zone and 52 in the Edmonton Zone.

There are now 12,053 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, with 1,036 of those active and 10,796 recovered. There are 48 people in hospital with 13 of those in ICU.

One additional death was reported Friday, bringing the provincial total at 221.

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COVID-19 outbreak declared at new Cargill plant as Alberta reports 84 new cases province-wide – Calgary Herald

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Article content continued

“This plant in terms of the pre-existing conditions was better,” Hesse said. “But the question is what Cargill does now.”

Alberta also announced two other new Calgary outbreaks Friday. One is at Fledglings Educare Centre, where two staff and three children were infected with COVID-19. Two of the children have now recovered. As well, an outbreak at a private gathering is linked to 13 cases, nine of which remain active.

Also Friday, Alberta reported 84 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the province’s total to 12,053.

The new cases came from about 8,200 tests, a one per cent positive rate. More than 800,000 tests have now been conducted in Alberta.

Both active cases and hospitalization rates stayed stagnant from Thursday. There are 1,036 active coronavirus cases in Alberta, while 48 Albertans remain in hospital with the virus, including 13 receiving treatment in intensive-care units.

One new death from COVID-19 in Alberta, a woman in her 60s from the AHS South zone, was reported Friday, bringing the province’s total to 221.

Elsewhere Friday, Calgary’s public and Catholic school boards each announced that they were mandating masks for all students in schools. Previously, Alberta Education only required students in Grades 4 to 12 to wear masks.

jherring@postmedia.com
Twitter: @jasonfherring

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Trump says 'whatever' to concerns about WeChat ban hurting Apple – AppleInsider

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During a press conference Friday, President Donald Trump appeared unconcerned with the possible impact that a WeChat ban could have on Apple’s business.

Earlier in August, Trump signed a pair of executive orders that would bar any transactions between U.S. companies and Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat. That, in effect, would ban both apps from the U.S., though it’s unclear what impact it might have globally.

On Friday, Apple joined a growing number of other major companies calling for the president to end the executive orders. That includes Disney, Ford, and Walmart.

When asked by a Bloomberg reporter at a White House press conference Friday morning about whether he was concerned about the effect the ban could have on iPhone sales in China and other markets, Trump simply responded “whatever.”

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“Gotta do what’s good in terms of the security of our country,” Trump said. “We’ve been very badly let down by China.”

WeChat is a wildly popular app among Chinese users. And in a Bloomberg survey conducted in August, 95% of respondents in China said that they would rather give up their iPhones for Androids than lose out on WeChat.

On Monday, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo cautioned than an outright ban on WeChat could cut global iPhone shipments by about 30%.

It isn’t clear whether the U.S. ban would only bar WeChat’s use in the country, or if its vague wording could force Apple to pull it from the global App Store. WeChat parent company TenCent said that it is seeking clarity.

Trump’s order to ban TikTok could be stopped if a U.S. company acquires the social media platform — which Microsoft is in talks to do. Such an acquisition has not been discussed for WeChat.

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