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VIA Rail just cancelled all of its trips across Canada due to protest blockades

VIA Rail has cancelled all of its service across Canada due to protester blockades that have forced its infrastructure owner, Canadian National Railway Co, to shut down its entire network.

VIA Rail stated that there will be no more train departures and until further notice. Upon infrastructure owner instructions, all VIA Rail trains currently en route will be brought to the closest major train station.

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

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.

Blockades against the proposed pipeline, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government says invigorate natural gas exports in British Columbia, began last week.

Its route cuts through indigenous Canadian land.

JJ Ruest, CN's chief executive, called the train stoppage a "regrettable" situation, but said the cancellations were due to circumstances "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," Mr Ruest said.

Some 5 million Canadian commuters use the intercity passenger services of Via Rail on tracks mostly owned by CN. Thousands have already been forced to find alternative means of travel.

CN said the stoppage may also lead to temporary layoffs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has written to the Indigenous chiefs at the centre of a rail blockade in B.C., pledging to send a federal representative to hash out an agreement to bring the protests to an end.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has confirmed that Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will be on hand for a meeting between B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser and Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. No date has been set for the meeting.

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