Marches shut down West Coast Express, disrupt port access

VANCOUVER — Two groups of protesters, both marching in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, set up blockades Monday afternoon that shut down the West Coast Express commuter train and disrupted access to the Port of Vancouver.

A group calling themselves the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism have blocked the rail lines along the Haney Bypass in Maple Ridge that has halted train traffic in both directions.

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TransLink said it was forced to suspend West Coast Express service due to protesters blocking the tracks near Port Haney station. The transit authority advised passengers to take SkyTrain to Coquitlam Central station where a bus bridge was waiting to shuttle people further east.

It’s the second time in two weeks that protesters halted the commuter train, which operates between Mission and Vancouver and moves nearly 5,000 people every weekday.

TransLink was forced to cancel afternoon service on Feb. 13 and morning service on Feb. 14 due to protesters blocking the railway adjacent to the Pitt River Bridge. The Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism took credit for that blockade as well.

A different group of demonstrators, who describe themselves as urban Indigenous sovereigntists and their supporters, set up a blockade Monday afternoon at the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive to prevent vehicle access to the Port of Vancouver.

Vancouver police advised drivers to steer clear of the area and consider alternate routes.

On Feb. 10, Vancouver police arrested 43 protesters for blocking port access, in violation of an injunction obtained by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Delta police said a further 14 people were arrested on the Deltaport Way causeway.

The Port of Vancouver said in a statement that its court order was still in effect and it is working with Vancouver police “to address the current protest at Clark and Hastings Street.”

“The disruptions to port operations over the past few weeks have had a significant impact on Canadians across the country, who rely on the businesses that import and export goods through the port for employment and for the products that support each of us every day. While we respect the right to a peaceful protest, the port authority has a federal responsibility to ensure the safe and efficient movement of Canada’s trade through the port,” the statement said.

Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Aaron Roed says police were monitoring Monday’s protest, which he said was blocking just one of the three access points into the port.

Ten people were arrested early Monday morning as police, enforcing a midnight injunction, moved in to dismantle barriers that had brought rail traffic to a standstill in central Ontario.

Meanwhile, members of the Gitxsan First Nation are once again blockading a rail line outside of New Hazelton.

The blockade was temporarily taken down Feb. 13 pending a meeting between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the federal government that has yet to occur.

— Vancouver Sun and The Canadian Press

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