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Rail traffic resumes after aboriginal day of protest

Last Updated: Saturday, June 30, 2007 | 6:32 PM ET

After a daylong shutdown due to an aboriginal protest, CN and Via Rail service resumed Saturday morning between Toronto and Montreal, as well as Toronto and Ottawa.

Mohawk protesters in eastern Ontario erected a barricade on the CN line 20 kilometres east of Belleville on Friday. Not far away, another barricade went up on Highway 2 near Deseronto, about 50 kilometres west of Kingston.

The mostly peaceful demonstrations were overshadowed by the protest of a small group of Mohawks in eastern Ontario that disrupted rail and road transportation.The mostly peaceful demonstrations were overshadowed by the protest of a small group of Mohawks in eastern Ontario that disrupted rail and road transportation.
(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

The protests prompted CN to suspend all rail service on the Montreal-Toronto corridor.

CN estimated the rail closure halted the delivery of $100 million in cargo.

A spokesman for Via Rail, Malcolm Andrews, said the company added extra cars to some of its trains on Saturday, but passengers can still expect delays of one to two hours in getting to their destinations.

The rail blockade ended at midnight ET, marking the end of a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations held across the country to raise public awareness of aboriginal issues ranging from poverty to suicide to land claim disputes.

Elsewhere, police responded to the threat of road barricades on Friday by shutting down a 29-kilometre stretch of Highway 401, between Napanee and Belleville, for 11 hours.

Provincial police officers directed traffic off Highway 401 at a Belleville exit after closing the highway in order to avoid a confrontation with Bay of Quinte Mohawks.

People marked the first Aboriginal National Day of Action with events ranging from community fish fries to rallies to blockades.

Native protesters, many singing and beating drums, took to the streets in Vancouver, Regina, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Phil Fontaine, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, appealed to Canadians to look beyond the extreme measures taken in eastern Ontario and focus on the intended goal of the long-planned day of action.

"We are looking for the basic necessities of life that come with being Canadian — clean drinking water, decent housing, education and health care," Fontaine told a news conference in Ottawa.

"We are looking for equality of opportunity so we can get good jobs and support ourselves and our families. We are looking to control our own destinies. Improving our lives won't only be good for us, First Nations people, it will be good for Canada."

Provincial police Commissioner Julian Fantino said an arrest warrant was issued for rogue Mohawk protester Shawn Brant, who warned that similar blockades would be held.

Brant said he will turn himself in to police next week to face a charge of mischief.

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