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VIA Rail shutting down passenger service in Canada due to blockades – CityNews

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CN Rail says blockades are causing it to shut down its train network in Eastern Canada.

The company says that means stopping all transcontinental trains across its Canadian network and it may lead to temporary layoffs for eastern Canadian staff.

VIA Rail says that also means shutting all its passenger service in Canada, which mostly uses CN track.

“Following a notice from the infrastructure owner, CN Rail, that they are no longer in a position to fulfill their obligations under the Train Service Agreement between VIA Rail and CN Rail, VIA Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network, effective immediately and until further notice,” read a statement from VIA.

“Passengers are being informed that as of 4pm EST, there will be no more train departures.”

“Upon infrastructure owner instructions, all VIA Rail trains currently en route will be 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 says it is providing full refunds for all cancelled trips, which are being processed automatically but that due to the volume of transactions it may take up to 15 days to receive.

Metrolinx says they are monitoring the situation very closely and are in contact with CN but at this point they are not anticipating any GO Train / UP Express service disruptions on any of their lines.

Part of the tracks they use along Lakeshore West, Barrie and Kitchener are owned by CN Rail but Metrolinx has agreements in place to operate along those corridors.

CN Rail says in a statement it has sought and obtained court orders and requested the assistance of enforcement agencies for the blockades in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

It says while the blockades have been dismantled in Manitoba and may be ending imminently in B.C., the court order in Ontario has yet to be enforced and continues to be ignored.

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

CN Rail says it has tried to adjust its operations to serve customers but it is now left with the only remaining responsible option: progressively shutting down eastern Canadian operations.

“With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer at CN 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.”

The union which represents over 16,000 workers in the rail industry says the CN shutdown could see up to 6,000 workers laid off. Teamsters Canada is calling on the federal government to intervene to find a solution.

“These blockades are having a catastrophic impact on ordinary, working-class Canadians who have nothing to do with the Coastal Gaslink pipeline,” said Teamsters Canada president François Laporte. “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.”

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B.C. reveals 6th presumptive coronavirus case – CBC.ca

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A sixth person in B.C. is believed to be infected with the coronavirus, and the case is raising new questions about how the disease is spreading, health officials announced Thursday.

The latest patient is a woman in her 30s who lives in the Fraser Health region, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. She had recently returned from a trip to Iran and is now recovering at home.

Henry said officials were surprised when they learned the woman had only visited Iran, and not China or neighbouring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases.

“That could be an indicator that there’s more widespread transmission. This is what we call an indicator or sentinel event,” Henry told a news conference.

“I expect there’ll be an international investigation to try to understand where the exposure occurred.”

She added that Iran has recently announced five cases of the virus and two deaths. 

Henry described the woman’s infection as relatively mild, and said she tested positive for the virus after visiting the hospital with what she thought were symptoms of the flu. 

The patient has had contact with others since her return from Iran last week. Close family members are currently in isolation and being monitored by public health officials.

She said health officials are looking into when the patient’s symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft. Her diagnosis is considered presumptive until confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. 

Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus. All cases so far have been relatively mild, according to health officials.

The update comes one day after Hnery revealed that B.C.’s first confirmed coronavirus patient has fully recovered, and that four others are symptom free.

The fifth, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu. Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is currently testing a “very significant number” of patients for the virus, and he expects to provide another update on Friday.

New numbers from China

China, where an outbreak has caused more than 2,200 deaths, has reported another drop in new virus cases to 889 as COVID-19 spreads elsewhere.

China’s latest figures released Friday for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236.

More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland.

Iran announced three more infections Thursday, a day after it reported its first two deaths, and South Korea reported its first fatality. Japan said two former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship had died of the illness.

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Canadian stranded in Cuba dies suddenly at airport waiting for flight home – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A Canadian man who was stranded on a small island in Cuba has died while waiting for his flight home.

Travellers have been stranded on Cayo Largo del Sur for several days after a runway at the island’s only airport was damaged earlier this week. 

On Wednesday, passengers flying back to Toronto were taken to the closed airport to be processed before they took a ferry to Cuba’s mainland. They were then flown out of Havana and arrived in Toronto around 5 a.m. on Thursday. 

Ontario woman Chantalle Menchions said she was waiting for the ferry, along with other Air Transat passengers, when a man suddenly dropped to the floor. 

The 24-year-old nurse said she ran over to the man but he didn’t have a pulse.

“People started screaming. It was chaos,” Menchions told CTV News Toronto on Thursday. She, along with four other people, immediately began to administer CPR. 

“People were yelling and freaking out. I started yelling at people to get out of the way.”

“We checked for a pulse but there wasn’t one. He wasn’t responsive.”

Menchions said about 15 minutes later, a medical team arrived at the airport and took the man away. She said she was never given an update about the man’s condition.

Chantalle

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Global Affairs confirmed the Canadian died. His name, age and cause of death have not been released. 

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Canadian citizen who died in Cuba,” the statement released on Thursday said.

“Consular services are being provided to the family of the individual.”

Meanwhile, Air Transat confirmed one of their passengers needed medical attention.

“I can confirm that one of our passengers required medical attention prior to departure from Cayo Largo and was transported to the international clinic by ambulance,” Air Transat said in a statement to CTV News Toronto. 

“As is the case for any situation involving our passengers, we will not give out any other information for reasons of privacy.”

“This delay in returning to Canada is the result of a situation beyond our control, and we regret any inconvenience that has resulted, but I can assure you our teams worked tirelessly in collaboration with Cuban authorities to safely bring our passengers home.”

Cuba

Concerns raised about lack of medication 

Travellers stranded on Cuba have expressed concerns that they were not able to access crucial medication while they were stranded. 

“There were lots of people who ran out of medication. I know I personally ran out of mine,” Menchions said. 

“I had people coming up and saying ‘I’m out of my blood pressure medication.’ But nowhere on the island had anything.”

Air Transat confirmed they received concerns from some passengers about a lack of medication but says additional medication was provided. 

“Tour operator representatives on site contacted a doctor on the island and additional medication was provided to clients who requested it.”

Passengers taken on cockroach-infested ferry

Menchions said that after emergency crews arrived and took the man away passengers were put on a bus and taken to a ferry.

She said officials at the airport weren’t interested in speaking with her or any of the other people who performed CPR on the man.

“I was on the bus five minutes later,” Menchions said. “No one stopped to talk with us. We tried to talk to the doctor but they kept going.”

Roach

The ferry ride took approximately six hours. Menchions said after the sun went down, cockroaches came out and began crawling around the boat.  

After they arrived in mainland Cuba, they were bussed to Havana where passengers eventually boarded an Air Transat flight to Toronto. 

“It’s something I’ve never experience before,” Menchions said. 

The airport is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 26.

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The latest on protests across Canada in support of anti-pipeline demonstrators – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Here is the latest news on protests across Canada over a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia:

The federal agriculture minister is indicating that help could soon be on the way for farmers impacted by barricades that have virtually shut down Canada’s rail network.

Marie-Claude Bibeau says 2019 and the beginning of this year have been difficult for Canada’s agriculture sector.

She told reporters in Ottawa today that she is looking for “practical ways” to support farmers who have been unable to get their products to market as a result of the barricades, but could not elaborate, saying she needs to speak with her cabinet colleagues first.

Rail and road barricades have been erected in several locations across the country over the last two weeks in solidarity with the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a pipeline project on their territory in northwestern B.C.

The RCMP confirms the commander of the Mountie’s British Columbia division has sent a letter to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, agreeing to discuss the future of a small contingent of officers stationed on traditional First Nation territory near the site of a disputed pipeline.

The letter from Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan says she is willing to meet with the chiefs to discuss what she calls the Community Industry Safety Office, located southwest of Houston along a road leading to the area where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is under construction.

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says the letter states that if there is continued commitment to keep the road open, the need for the police presence is “diminished or decreased.”

Shoihet says the letter was sent Wednesday.

She says Strachan also sent an internal memo to all RCMP employees in B.C., offering her appreciation for their “professionalism” during recent enforcement of a court injunction ordering demonstrators away from the pipeline site.

The memo tells members that management is aware the presence of the RCMP contingent on the road is considered by hereditary chiefs as a barrier to further dialogue, and RCMP management supports efforts now underway to find a long-term solution to the issue.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says police will dismantle a rail blockade in St-Lambert, south of Montreal, if a court grants an injunction.

He says the blockade that went up Wednesday is not on First Nations land, making it easier to take action.

The blockade in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia was erected on CN tracks, and has disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.

A few dozen protesters, well stocked with supplies, tents, camping gear and firewood, are at the site today and say they plan to stay as long as RCMP remain on Wet’suwet’en lands.

Snow has been piled onto tracks, with signs strung across a cord hung between rail signals.

Protesters, who declined to give their names to reporters, describe themselves as supporters of the Wet’suwet’en and say they will take their direction from the B.C. First Nation’s hereditary chiefs, who are contesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole says he would criminalize blockades of railways, air and seaports, major roads, businesses and households if he were prime minister.

The Ontario MP and former cabinet minister says police should clear blockades as soon as possible without having to wait for court injunctions.

Blockades set up in support of Indigenous protests of a natural-gas pipeline in British Columbia have halted rail traffic in Central Canada and temporarily blocked roads and bridges in spots across the country.

O’Toole also says he would take charitable status away from any group that accepts foreign contributions and encourages blockades.

To improve relations with Indigenous Peoples, O’Toole says he would fund an Aboriginal liaison officers in the RCMP.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP have offered to move officers away from the area where traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been opposing a pipeline on their territory.

Blair says that meets the conditions set by the chiefs, who have demanded that Mounties leave their traditional lands southwest of Houston, B.C.

But yesterday Chief Na’moks, one of five hereditary clan chiefs who lead the First Nation under its traditional form of governance, said pipeline builder Coastal GasLink must also pull out of the traditional territory before any meeting with provincial and federal politicians can proceed.

Canada’s minister in charge of Indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, and her B.C. counterpart Scott Fraser are in northern B.C. to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs who might be willing to talk.

Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said he is attending a funeral and is unavailable to meet today, while the other four hereditary chiefs are expected in Mohawk territory to thank members of that Ontario First Nation for their solidarity.

Nationwide protests and blockades followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been obstructing an access road to the company’s work site.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

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