Protesters block mid-town intersection in support of Wet'suwet'en protests
Via Rail says it was forced to cancel 157 trains along the Toronto-Montreal corridor Tuesday
A group of protesters set up a blockade at the intersection of Yonge Street and Soudan Avenue on Tuesday in support of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation's hereditary chiefs and their supporters in northern B.C., who are opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Toronto police said in a tweet that there were about 50 protestors at the intersection, adding that they are "obstructing traffic." The police said motorists should find alternate routes.
Morgan Johnson, one of the protesters from the group Rising Tide Toronto, said everyone should be concerned about the issues being raised by the Wet'suwet'en.
"This is all in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en who are defending their traditional territory and their land against RCMP invasion on behalf of coastal GasLink who is trying to put a pipeline through their territory without their consent," Johnson told CBC Toronto.
"Our demands are that the RCMP leave Wet'suwet'en territory and respect their traditional laws and no construction should be happening without informed consent on indigenous territory, ever.
"We need to tell them that this is not OK and we do not accept this happening, this violence happening towards indigenous people here or anywhere in the world," Johnson added.
'We want to be heard and we're shutting down Canada'
Another protester, Sam Wong, said there is ongoing "colonial violence" unravelling "in its purest form" in Canada, with Indigenous people being stripped of their land.
Wong was among a group of protesters who occupied the office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett for several hours Monday night.
"We want to be heard and we're shutting down Canada. It's happening all over the country; we've been doing it since Thursday," Wong told CBC Toronto.
"We're just going to keep going until the demands are met."
The protests, which began last week, have forced Via Rail to cancel 157 train trips along the Toronto-Montreal corridor as of Tuesday.
The rail line says at least 24,500 passengers have been affected by the disruption.
"We know that this unfortunate situation has an impact on our passengers travelling plans and we apologize for the inconvenience it is causing," VIA Rail spokesperson Marie-Anna Murat said in a statement.
"We encourage them, if they need to travel in the next few days, to use an alternative mode of transportation since we do not have the capability of providing one."
Murat said reservations can be cancelled for a full refund with no service charges up to two days prior to the departure date.
"Since the infrastructure Via Rail operates on belongs to CN, we invite you to communicate with them regarding information on any progress regarding the resolution of the blockade," she wrote in the statement.
Last Thursday protesters began demonstrating at Belleville, Ont., against the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
Canadian National Railway traffic was also blocked along the corridor east of Toronto.
RCMP officers in B.C. have been arresting people for breaching a court injunction that attempted to clear the way for construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.
'Significant' parts of rail network will close, CN says
Meanwhile, CN said it will be forced to close "significant" parts of its Canadian network unless the blockades impeding its rail lines are removed.
CN said more than 150 freight trains have been halted since Thursday evening.
The ongoing blockades sit near Belleville, Ont., and near New Hazleton in northwestern B.C., while other demonstrations cropped up Tuesday in locations ranging from the Halifax port to the B.C. legislature.
Industry groups are also expressing concern about the shutdown, with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association urging government officials to work with police to restore rail service.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau says he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and that blockage of tracks is "dangerous and illegal."
DEMONSTRATION:<br>Yonge St + Soudan Ave<br>- Wet' suwet'en land protesters<br>- 50-50 people in intersection<br>- protesters obstructing traffic<br>- please find alternate route of travel<br>GO#294485<br>^ep2—@TPSOperations
With files from Farrah Merali and The Canadian Press