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The Progressive Conservative government plans to apply for a court injunction to prevent protesters from continuing to disrupt rail traffic on the CN main line in Manitoba.
Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba Attorney General Cliff Cullen has instructed the Justice Department to prepare the application to empower the RCMP to take the necessary action to prevent disruptions to rail service.
"We want to take action immediately to file the injunction to assist in ensuring that the laws of our province are applied equally to everyone," Pallister said in an interview late Wednesday afternoon.
"We’re never going to restrict free protest, but when it gets over the line into illegal activity, that’s when an injunction is necessary."
The premier said he expects the province to draft the document over "the next couple of days." It would be filed in Court of Queen’s Bench.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators protesting police enforcement of an injunction in northern British Columbia tied up rail traffic on two lines west of Winnipeg. Similar protests have occurred across the country.
Pallister said police are put in a difficult position in dealing with such blockades.
"We don’t believe in two-tier law: the laws should apply to all. And, of course, the RCMP needs to have the support of an injunction in this respect," he said.
The premier said the province is seeking to prevent further blockage of the transportation of goods along the CN line.
He said he has yet to hear about concerns from specific shippers in Manitoba. However, in Quebec, concerns have been raised about potential shortages of propane for livestock barns, should service disruptions continue.
Pallister did not weigh in on the gas pipeline issue in British Columbia that sparked Wednesday’s protest in Manitoba. In B.C., protesters have called for government to halt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is opposed by Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs.
The premier noted Manitoba is keen to construct outlet channels that would prevent flooding of Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.
Indigenous groups have raised concerns that they have not been properly consulted about the proposed projects.
"There’s always the danger that people will assume they have the right to put their interests or their protests ahead of everybody else," he said. "We want to send a clear message that we respect the process and we want a process that’s respectful. And that process and those laws should apply to everyone."
Pallister said if the rail blockade in Manitoba spreads to other lines, the government is prepared to apply for more injunctions.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
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