Via rail to lay off 1,000

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Via Rail says it is temporarily laying off 1,000 employees due to blockades that continue to halt service on CN tracks in Eastern Canada.

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto routes for nearly two weeks due to the protests that have disrupted rail service across the country.

The layoffs come amid growing pressure on the federal government to take action against rail blockades in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

``Until CN Rail opens the remaining tracks for service, VIA Rail has no choice but to continue the cancellation of its services on a large part of its network,'' Via said in a release Thursday. ``It is with sincere regret that we must proceed with temporary employee suspensions.''

Via will resume partial service in southwestern Ontario and along its Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa route Thursday morning after announcing a full network shutdown last Thursday.

Chief executive Cynthia Garneau called the ongoing interruption due to a 13-day blockade east of Belleville, Ont., ``unprecedented.''

``In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger rail service, has to interrupt most of its services across the country,'' she said in a statement.

Via said it commends the ongoing dialogue efforts between government and demonstrators at the rail blockades

The company has cancelled more than 530 trains since blockades began on Feb. 6.

Earlier this week, Canadian National Railway Co. temporarily laid off about 450 workers from its operations in Eastern Canada after cancelling more than 400 trains since protests arose.