VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After protests forced cancellation of the West Coast Express Thursday evening, one Port Coquitlam mother called her city’s mayor in tears.
Brad West says the woman was unable to make it to her 2-year-old son’s day care in time for pick up. Being late not only caused her distress, it also cost her $100, cancelling out the money she earned for the day’s work.
“That’s one story and I’m sure there’s hundreds or thousands more. Why should someone like her be suffering because action isn’t taken to clear this out? I think that’s wrong,” West says.
Protesters supporting the Wet’suwet’en opposition to the LNG pipeline in north central B.C. began blocking tracks on the Pitt River rail bridge Thursday afternoon, halting all trains leaving Vancouver.
The trains remained idle Thursday evening, prompting the cancellation of service for Friday morning. A bus bridge has been set up to help people commute between Vancouver and Mission, with no word on when trains will resume.
3/ The protestors have deliberately targeted the commuter rail line in order to maximize the damage and chaos inflicted on people in PoCo, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge & Mission who have limited transit options. It must not stand.
— Brad West (@BradWestPoCo) February 14, 2020
West points out 5,000 people from Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Mission rely on the commuter train each day.
“This illegal action that’s been taken, this blockade is hurting working people,” West says. “This is an action that causes them a great deal of distress. This doesn’t affect any politician, or any government, or any company. It affects thousands of primarily working people in our communities who are doing nothing other than trying to get to work and get home to their families.”
He wants an immediate end to the blockade and says he has been in touch with police, who remain on scene.
Although the West Coast Express is operated by TransLink, Canadian Pacific Railway has jurisdiction over the tracks.
“I hope they take action right now,” West says. “I’m at a loss as to why this very small group is being given the leeway to inflict so much damage on thousands of people in my community.”
NEWS 1130 has reached out to the company to ask if it plans to seek an injunction which could prompt the removal of protesters by police.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden echoes West’s frustration, saying thousands of people in his city also rely on the train to get to and from Vancouver.
“When transportation and similar networks are impacted certainly we are very concerned about that. Everyone has the right to protest in a way that doesn’t impact others, but at this level it can’t possibly be condoned,” he says. “Feel free to exercise your democratic rights, but don’t have it impact others because it’s not going to help your cause.”
Meantime, BC’s Public Safety Minister has taken to Twitter to condemn the blockade, as has a local MLA.
— Mike Farnworth (@mikefarnworthbc) February 14, 2020
Civil protest continues to play a vital role in our democracy, however stopping commuter trains is unacceptable. The disruption of WCE by protesters this afternoon cannot continue. My hope is CP rail will work to ensure service can resume quickly and safely for our community.
— Lisa Beare (@lisabeare) February 14, 2020
On Thursday, Farnworth said protests that intimidate and harass people are not acceptable after anti-pipeline protesters occupied the Vancouver area constituency office of MLA and Attorney General David Eby.
“And if people engage in activities that cross lines of what is the norm in our society, then there will be consequences,” he added.
The West Coast Express cancellations come after VIA rail halted all scheduled trips across the country, and CN Rail called off all service in eastern Canada due to ongoing anti-pipeline and Indigenous rights protests.