Canada Hit by New Rail, Road Barricades in Wake of Arrests of Indigenous Protesters

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) — Protesters in Canada blocked train lines, Vancouver's port entrance and at least one highway on Tuesday in response to the arrest of 10 indigenous protesters when police dismantled a rail barricade in southern Ontario a day ago.

On Monday, police arrested some of the Tyendinaga Mohawk campaigners who had shut down the line in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en from British Columbia, who are seeking to stop construction of a gas pipeline over their land.

The new rail blockade at a junction of three busy Canadian National Railway lines is interrupting commuter service, with the closure of four stations on Metrolinx's GO Transit passenger line to Toronto from Hamilton.

"The impact of these blockades is unacceptable and cannot be sustained," Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said. "When people do not choose to obey the law, there are other legal recourses, either through the courts or through enforcement, that may be necessary."

The group, which on Facebook calls itself "Wet'suwet'en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity," said police served them with an injunction, which they burned, late on Monday.

"We're shutting down an effective junction that handles all rail traffic in and out of Hamilton," the group said on Facebook. 

A CN spokesman said the company was monitoring the situation, without providing any details about how many or what type of trains were affected. A rail union source said the new blockade was at a "strategic location." 

"As long as that blockade is up, nothing is going to move," the source said.

The standoff between authorities and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, who have been battling the gas line for a decade, has grown increasingly tense as aboriginal bands and climate activists across Canada have taken up their cause. 

The protests are testing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's pledge to reconcile Canada with its indigenous groups, who face higher levels of poverty and violence and shorter life expectancies than the national average.

British Columbia police on Tuesday confirmed that they arrested seven people overnight who were blocking a rail line west of New Hazelton. Kanesatake Mohawk stopped traffic on Highway 344 in Quebec.

An injunction was served on Tuesday to Kahnawake Mohawk blocking a Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd rail line south of Montreal.

The barricade "has severed vital rail connections and severely impacted CP's operations, customers and the broader economy," the company said in a statement.

In British Columbia, protesters barricaded a major intersection near the Port of Vancouver's main entrance.

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