West Coast Express afternoon commuter trains have been cancelled today (Thursday) after demonstrators blockaded the CP Rail yard in Port Coquitlam as part of a nation-wide action in support of the Wet'suwet'en.
TransLink said eastbound trains running from Waterfront Station to Mission — through Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam — will not run this afternoon and advised commuters to make alternate travel arrangements.
"We have been advised by Canadian Pacific Railway Police that we will not be able to run any more West Coast Express service today," said Jill Drews, TransLink spokesperson, in an email. "At this point, we are asking customers to use SkyTrain and bus instead. [Coast Mountain Bus Company] is examining options for additional bus service and details will follow."
TransLink is recommending commuters who take West Coast Express beyond Coquitlam to take SkyTrain to Coquitlam Central Station. From there, travellers can take either the 701 or the R3 RapidBus.
"There is limited 701 service from Haney Place to Mission City but capacity and frequency are not high," TransLink said in an email. "Please use our trip planner to find the schedule for 701 trips to Mission City."
A group calling itself the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism said it is taking part in a nation-wide demonstration in support of the Wet'suwet'en and their fight to stop a pipeline from being built on their traditional territories. The group blockaded the tracks near Lougheed Highway and the Mary Hill Bypass just west of the Pitt River Bridge, saying the rail junction was one of the most important in Metro Vancouver.
"Blocking access points of trade of goods and flow of capital disrupts the economy," said Sadie Morris, one of the demonstrators. "Our movements know that there is a direct opposition between the Wet'suwet'en struggle for sovereignty and Canada's economy is solely built on land theft, the commodification of the life of the Earth.
"For the Wet'suwet'en nation to be free, to stop Canada's invasion of their sovereign territories, the economic system based on profit-gain needs to stop."
Isabel Krupp, another organizer, told The Tri-City News at the blockade that the demonstrators came from across the Lower Mainland and had participated in other actions in Vancouver and Delta.
She said Coquitlam RCMP, which were watching the demonstration, had threatened to arrest the group but so far no one has been taken into custody.
"They threatened us with arrest but they did that as well when we blockaded the port in Delta but we were able to hold the port for another 40 hours after the police came and threatened to arrest us," she said. "We know those 40 hours had a massive economic impact and we are going to hold the blockade [in Port Coquitlam] for as long as we possibly can."
The group had a large white pavilion tent and appeared to be well supplied with duffle bags for a lengthy stay. Krupp said the goal of the protest was to do economic damage to the country.
"We are here and we have stopped the trains," she added. "That is already significant. That is already a small victory. With every minute that passes, with every hour that passes, and every day that passes, that means our solidarity with Wet'suwet'en is stronger and more effective and that is what it is all about."
When a The Tri-City News reporter arrived at the blockade Thursday afternoon, officers from the Coquitlam RCMP and the Metro Vancouver Transit Police looked on from across the tracks.
The group, many of whom veiled their faces with handkerchiefs or masks, spray painted large cloth banners that read "We stand with Wet'suwet'en, Gitxsan & Tyendinaga" and "Shut Canada down." Others leaned off the rail bridge and held their fist in the air. That prompted several vehicles to honk their hown as they passed on the highway below.
By late afternoon, two freight trains lumbered by on a yard track, hauling grain and fuel, among other cars.
On the adjacent main line, the blockade remained as a CP rail employee describing himself as a supervisor approached the group.
"We're understand," he said. "We just want to make sure you're safe."
— With files from Stefan Labbé