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Blockade stops trains

Via Rail passengers are being bused around the site of a First Nations blockade on a busy rail line in eastern Ontario.

Montreal-based Via Rail says the blockade in the Napanee, Ont., area between Belleville and Kingston is affecting trains on Toronto-to-Montreal and Toronto-to-Ottawa routes in both directions. Trains between Ottawa and Montreal are operating according to the regular schedule for now.

Public Security and Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur said Ontario Provincial Police were monitoring the situation and it would be up to them to decide if and when to move in to break up the blockade.

"This would be the decision of the OPP, and I don't interfere with their work," she said. "(The native protest) is of concern to me, and I would encourage them to discuss their matter without the blockade."

The OPP said they were aware of the protest that began around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and they are monitoring the situation along with CN police and the Tyendinaga Police Service. The provincial police say they will be using a "measured approach that respects everyone's right to peaceful, lawful protest."

In the event of criminal activity, any incidents will be investigated and those responsible will be held accountable, police said.

CN police have issued a stop order for all trains going through the area near Kingston, forcing Via Rail to cancel its rail service and use buses to get passengers through until further notice.

The blockade is part of recent protests in the Belleville area by a First Nations group calling for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Earlier this month, demonstrators temporarily stopped rail traffic in the area, leading CN to issue a stop order and Via Rail to cancel trips in the busy Toronto-to-Ottawa corridor.

Provincial police made several arrests and three men were charged, including protest spokesman Shawn Brant of Tyendinaga Territory, who faces two counts of mischief.

Via Rail says the blockade situation is expected to cause "substantial expenses" and will likely mean its employees will have to work long hours until it is resolved.

It says delays can be expected and customers with reservations who choose not to travel will receive a full refund.

The Canadian Press

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