Native protest disrupts Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal rail service

Sat Jan 5, 2013 10:01pm EST
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By Frank McGurty

TORONTO (Reuters) - Aboriginal demonstrators disrupted passenger rail service on routes connecting Toronto with Ottawa and Montreal on Saturday, a day after Canada's prime minister agreed to meet with First Nations leaders to discuss grievances behind a growing native protest movement.

About 1,000 people traveling on four trains were stranded on VIA Rail routes in eastern Ontario when the railway stopped service in both directions Saturday evening, said a VIA Rail spokeswoman, Annie Marsolais. The passengers were completing their trips on buses provided by the railway.

VIA Rail could provide no firm timetable for the resumption of service, saying it was awaiting further information from local authorities about the protest, which was blocking tracks near Marysville, about 205 kilometers (127 miles) east of Toronto.

Authorities on the scene of the protest could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was at least the third major rail disruption in the past month by demonstrators from the loosely organized Idle No More movement. Protesters blocked a Canadian National Railway line in Sarnia, Ontario, for about two weeks until Wednesday, and there were shorter blockades elsewhere in the country, including one that delayed passenger trains between Montreal and Toronto for several hours last Sunday.

There were also scattered demonstrations on U.S.-Canadian border crossings in the Niagara region near Buffalo, New York, and in eastern Ontario, according to the media reports.


Saturday's protests came even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended an olive branch to the angry aboriginal movement on Friday by agreeing to a January 11 meeting to discuss social and economic issues.   Continued...