Canada
First Nations rail blockade strands VIA Rail passengers for about 2 hours

Credits: MICHAEL PURVIS/SAULT STAR/QMI AGENCY

QMI AGENCY

BELLEVILLE, Ont. -- A First Nation's railroad blockade just east of Belleville left about 2,000 VIA Rail passengers "stranded" for a little more than two hours.
The blockade, set up at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, consisted of about 20 people and was peaceful. It was eventually taken down by the protesters, a CN Rail spokesman said.

"It's been an interesting night," Jim Feeny said. "We have CN Police on site and we are currently testing the signals and the track to make sure everything is functioning perfectly with the intention of resuming traffic as soon as possible."

It's believed the protesters were part of the Idle No More movement.

It has staged a number of protests to show support for Northern Ontario First Nations Chief Theresa Spence, who is currently on a hunger strike as part of her demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Feeny said while it "took some time" for the blockade to come down, it was peaceful. Members of CN Police and technical crews remained on the scene after the protesters left to inspect the area.

"We're doing a very thorough inspection," Feeny said.
He added it was too early to determine any financial impact the blockade may have caused. Both CN and VIA lines were closed due to the blockade.

"When we found out about the blockade we immediately halted all freight and passenger traffic in the region until we could determine the situation," Feeny said. "We began discussions with the blockaders to determine what needed to be done to have it resolved, and they informed us it would be temporary and it would come down and, in fact, it did."

Neither Ontario Provincial Police or VIA Rail responded to telephone calls prior to press time.

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