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Via Rail cancels Montreal-Toronto, Toronto-Ottawa service over blockade



Via Rail says it is cancelling all train service on the Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes until the end of Thursday due to an anti-pipeline blockade near Belleville, Ont.

Spokesperson Marie-Anna Murat said on Tuesday that Via service is cancelled “in view of the current uncertainty.”

Via has cancelled 157 trains since the blockade began on Thursday, affecting at least 24,500 passengers.

It’s estimated service will resume “at least 36 hours from the time the line is cleared,” Murat said in an email. She said “heavy rail congestion” has been building since last Friday east and west of the blockade on CN tracks in eastern Ontario.

The blockade by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga , along one of Canada’s busiest rail corridors, comes in response to the RCMP’s recent enforcing of a court order in B.C. on Wet’suwet’en camps built to block construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The Mohawks have said they won’t leave until the RCMP have left Wet’suwet’en territory. The RCMP have finished dismantling the Wet’suwet’en camps, but remain in the territory to ensure compliance with the court order.


A First Nations protester stands in front of a transport at the blockade on Tuesday. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)


Ontario Provincial Police, however, said on Tuesday they are preparing to end the blockade.

Calling the situation “dire,” OPP officers told demonstrators to clear the area or face a raid and arrests. The demonstrators who met the officers said they would relay the message to the others.

The demonstrators have not put any obstructions on the tracks but are set up nearby — too close for trains to pass safely. The tracks run just outside the reserve boundary of Tyendinaga within its claimed territory.

Via said it will refund the cancelled trips, but that could take up to 10 days due to the volume of transactions.

Murat urged passengers to contact CN about “any progress” on the removal of the blockade. She said passengers will be given details about their trips by email and are urged to go to Via’s website for updated schedules.

Via added it remains hopeful that the situation will be resolved.

Via service continues from Toronto to southwestern Ontario, between Montreal and Ottawa and Montreal and Quebec City.

Rail service was also disrupted in B.C. between Prince Rupert and Prince George by a blockade near New Hazelton.

In eastern Ontario, CN said the shut-down is affecting shipments ranging from propane to feedstock, and has disrupted the only rail link between Eastern and Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

The OPP is calling on the demonstrators to abide a court injunction and not jeopardize public safety.

“Our primary goal is always to preserve the peace and maintain a safe environment for everyone. We remain open to dialogue that could lead to a peaceful and safe resolution,” Bill Dickson, spokesperson for the OPP’s East Region, said in an email on Tuesday.


An enforcement officer reads a court injunction to demonstrators on Tuesday. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)


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Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.

The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.

The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.

“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.

“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Man with 39 wive dies in India



A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”


(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case



Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.

Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.

She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.

Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.

Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.

A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.

The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.

Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.

Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.


(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)

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