FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION - April 11 is Election Day on Fort William First Nation. There are sixty-seven candidates running for a seat on the FWFN Band Council. The voters on the First Nation will select twelve councillors.

Ken Cyrette is seeking a seat on the Council.

Hello FWFN band and community members. I am proud to announce that I have accepted nomination for FWFN council, 2015.

I would like to introduce myself to FWFN. My name is Ken Cyrette – I am 34 years of age – and have resided in FWFN for the majority of my life. My parents are Pauline Cyrette and Ken MacLaurin. My paternal grandparents are the late William “Bill” MacLaurin Sr. and Marilyn MacLaurin. My maternal grandparents are the late Loretta Cyrette and Andrew “Andy” Golphy.

I have four years of post-secondary education. I spent two years at Confederation College where I graduated from the Police Foundations Program with the highest Grade Point Average. I also have two years at Lakehead University where I am enrolled in a double degree program in Political Science and Indigenous Learning.

Most recently I was employed with FWFN in the capacity as a Family Support Worker (FSW). My employment with FWFN was humbling and life changing as I witnessed day-to-day struggles experienced by fellow FWFN members. In the capacity as an FSW I served as a support and voice for FWFN band and community members.

Why am I running for position of councillor? It’s about respect for all FWFN members. I want to serve the people and provide an invaluable voice for all FWFN members: on-reserve, off-reserve, youth, women, children, babies, elders, and both status and non-status members. I especially want to be a voice for the people who are occasionally forgotten about: off-reserve members, single mothers, and members who struggle with substance use.

I will be canvassing door-to-door in the next couple weeks and am open to visiting with you. I can be contacted at 807-631-4361 or e-mailed at You can also visit my election campaign pages at or

I look forward to meeting with you soon. Miigwech!

Ken Cyrette

NetNewsLedger offers political candidates the opportunity to communicate directly with our readers and viewers. For FWFN candidates please contact

Powering to 30 lifts, this budding strong lady under the careful supervision of Kateri Skaarup

Powering to 30 lifts, this budding strong lady under the careful supervision of Kateri Skaarup

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – My name is Kateri (Banning) Skaarup,

I am a Fort William First Nations Member and Candidate for Council in the upcoming Chief and Council election happening April 11, 2015.

And this is the story of me…

I was born December 1981 to Cathy who was a fresh 16 at the time. I was fortunate to have extremely supportive Grandparents, Frank and Evelyn Banning, that allowed her to stay at home and finish school while they helped raise me. My biological father was given a free pass to leave and being only a teen himself he took it. It never bothered me though, I had Grandpa, he was enough. Everyone that walked through my Grandparents door called him “Daddy” including my Grandmother, so I naturally called Grandpa “Daddy”.

When I was around 6ish, my younger cousin asked what it was like to not have a Dad and that’s when it first occurred to me “holy poop, I didn’t”- crazy but true- that’s how well my Grandparents and Mother treated me- I never felt that anything was ever missing. I went to church with Grandma and Grandpa at least once a week and had to say my prayers daily. I often fell asleep listening to my Grandparents in their room next door, go back and forth reciting the rosary. We had pop and chips every Friday night and I would wake every Saturday morning to Grandpa cooking us all breakfast- I was the luckiest little girl ever when I look back on it.

My Mother had met my stepfather during my early childhood and at age 7 they purchased the house 3 doors down from Grandma and Grandpas- we finally had our own little family. I was still always at Grandmas though- thank God and Mom it was close!

My whole childhood I loved drawing and building houses. Any box that came through our door was turned into a dollhouse or Barbie house (yes there’s a difference). Kleenex boxes, shoeboxes, even if it wasn’t a box I’d tape it together to make one! Once I was teen I would make little cut out people for my miniature paper houses. My mom still laughs when she talks about my cities that used to overtake my bedroom- you couldn’t even open my door to get in sometimes. But that was my world, I could create whatever I wanted and I loved it.
I always stayed close with my Grandparents; they were always my rock, I would even tattle on my Step-dad to Grandpa, so much so that my step-dad used to throw in at the end of my scolding’s (which I totally deserved) “and don’t you go tell your Grandpa!”

My best friend through life was and still is my Cousin Dawn. I was an only child living at Grandmas and she was the closest in location and age (by 10 months) we were born to be partners in crime. We have done everything together from diapers, elementary school, high school, college, we even planned our weddings and got married together (2 months apart of course). She has always been the Angel on my shoulder and my “sister”- without her I may not have made it out of my teens or early twenties alive. And this is where the real story begins…

I was an easily influenced teen, maybe I was angry, maybe I was dumb, probably all of the above. I hung with the wrong crowd, got into trouble, and got caught in a few social traps. I fell into an abusive relationship at 17 and was trapped for years. At 20 I had my daughter, my savior. I was responsible for another human being- holy cow- what a wake up call. My daughters biological father had serious issues and he usually took out his anger at home with us. When my daughter was a baby, the police were called to my home for a disturbance. I was so controlled that I actually begged the police not to charge him- Thank God they didn’t listen to me and within 3 months of being held without bail he was sentenced to 6 months for domestic assault with no credit for time served- some of you will understand the severity of the situation the police walked into by that alone, but for the rest, I’m sorry, I can’t type those details. My daughter and I were free- and I was scared as hell. Thank God for my Grandparents, my Family and good friends Sarah & Dawn.

Thank God for Dawn.

I needed to feed my daughter, I needed to pay my bills and I needed to give my daughter a good life. It wasn’t about me at all anymore- it was all about her.
I enrolled in Confederation College full time and took on 3 part-time jobs. I worked for my step-dad at his welding shop, I bartended and waitressed and I sold cosmetics. Dawn helped to care for my Daughter, she was there, and she was my second half. She would pick her up from daycare, feed her, bathe her and put her to bed some nights. I was blessed to have such a good friend in such a crazy time- Dawn has always been apart of my foundation and I can only aspire to be as good of a friend as her. I’m doing my best Baby Dawn.

While in trade school I met Dan, my future husband. He was doing his Carpentry apprenticeship and we graduated in 2005, days later started dating and within 2 months we started Skaarup Construction. I had finally found someone to build my houses out of wood!!!

We started by doing random reno jobs that would come our way. A door, a window, a room, a main floor, we just kept growing. By 2007 we built and moved into our first house. We took on larger and larger projects including a 10,000ft2 dance studio to office space conversion and picked up major corporations as clients. In 2009 I designed and we built a duplex for a client and got burned- along with every single other contractor on that site- and bad. It almost took our company out-almost- and then- I lost my Grandfather, my “Daddy”. The one Man that had been there my whole life, the one that I truly felt could protect me from everything was gone. The hardest moments of my life right there- dealing with the loss of my Grandfather and the potential destruction of our company all at the same time had me crying in a corner for days.

I still had Grandma though- and she needed our help- my Daughter was due for her first communion and had to go to Sunday school. Grandma needed a new companion; a ride to church and it was perfect. I started taking Grandma to Church every Sunday and for once in my life I actually enjoyed it. We still needed to pay our bills though so I got a second job at Pauluccis Wayland Bar & Grill. I waitressed, bartended and I helped to pay my families bills while we worked at rebuilding our company and capital. I would wake at 6am and be done work at 3am some days. I relied on Red Bull and espresso- literally. In 2010 I started the process to my design designation with the MMAH and obtained my BCIN for the Ontario Building Code. By 2011 we were ready- we had realized that if we were capable of building, getting burned and still carrying on- why can’t we do that for ourselves? Why can’t we build houses without a client? Ah- but we can- and so we did.

Since that life changing decision our company has sky rocketed. We face resistance still of course but we are able to push forward and continue to fly. In 2014, in collaboration with Keynote events, we brought HGTV star Paul Lafrance here- the Deck God- as a fundraiser for the Regional Health Sciences Centre. Boy how things have changed.

In my spare time I do a lot- I enjoy working out- I have always loved long distance running and weight lifting. I have competed in powerlifting competitions since 2006 with multiple 1st and 2nd place trophies and medals. In 2011 with the help of the Pauluccis, we started Thunder Bays Strongest Man in support of Camp Quality- a donation based family friendly event that features live music outdoors, children activities and Thunder Bays Strongest Men and Women vying for the title of #1- I had no MC for the so I manned the mic and have since. Everything was a hit and before it was done we had all decided this was going to be an annual event.

I was then requested to MC the Muscles portion of Motors & Muscles in support of Our Kids Count and I continue to do so to date. In 2013 & 2014 Thunder Bay played host to Ontarios Strongest Man (televised nationally) and I was asked to be an MC again- I was really playing with the big boys now- no doubt about it.

In 2014 I was elected to the Shift Thunder Bay Young Professionals Network Board of Directors and was given the Title of Social Planning Director. Through this role I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from some of the best and brightest minds Our City has to offer, from former Mayors and current Councillors to students, managers, business owners and multi-millionaires. All success stories, all succeeding here- now how flipping inspiring is that? In the past year, being a part of Shift while running our Company has taught me so much and opened so many new doors to the future- it’s also showed me that ABSOLUTELY ANYONE CAN MAKE IT- you just have to Try AND NEVER GIVE UP.

I started this story by telling you that I’m currently a Candidate in the upcoming election on Fort William First Nations. Here’s where I return to that statement.
I have been through many adversities, much turmoil, immense joy and terrible sadness. I’ve persevered with strength and a smile- I have found my calling and success in that.

Currently on the horizon, FWFN is looking at major housing developments, elders residence and commercial complex build. We also have social issues and triumphs.
My experience in running a construction company and in home building will be an incredible asset sitting at the table during these projects and discussions as I fully understand the construction world, the budgeting, material costs and scope of work entailed for each project.
My experience as a child of a teen mother and becoming a young, single mother myself gives me compassion and understanding to our women who may be struggling right now.
Sometimes just by lending a bit of your strength and an ear is all a woman needs to get back in control and succeed.
My relationship and the blessing of being raised by my Grandparents gave me the utmost respect and understanding for Our Elders. It was a privilege to have had that much wisdom and all those stories within reach and I will always value an Elders thoughts and teachings.
My battles have strengthened my spirit as I’ve conquered some pretty scary demons.
I know the issues that effect our community, I’ve lived them.
I can help by being a light to others and showing that there is always hope.

Kateri Banning-Skaarup

NetNewsLedger offers space for political candidates and elected leaders to submit a column. This opportunity is extended to all current candidates in the Fort William First Nation election. To contact NetNewsLedger please email

The Guardian Angels way is to work with communities, Fort William First Nation and the Guardian Angels are continuing that process.

The Guardian Angels way is to work with communities, Fort William First Nation and the Guardian Angels are continuing that process.

THUNDER BAY - Fort William First Nation and the Guardian Angels held a meeting today to discuss community safety in the community.

Chief Georjann Morriseau said, “It was awesome to have Guardian Angels out today. Lots of great discussion and questions. Looking forward to more of these get togethers and working with them”.

“What I appreciated hearing was ‘We’re not here to do it for you we want to do it with you’ ,” added Morriseau. “A nice compliment to our existing efforts”.

Ian Hodgkinson from the Guardian Angels said, “Thank you to Chief and Council , and the community of the Fort William First Nation for an amazing day!”

“A lot of progress and a great start to growing with our new brothers and sisters!”

Chief Morriseau stated, “Our children will benefit from this if we do it right”.

Hodgkinson says, “The First Nation will be involved in the Angels, and we will have Aboriginal youth in all our programs, including safety patrols”.

This first meeting is historic in that it is the first time that a First Nation Community in Canada and the Guardian Angels are working together at this level.

The Guardian Angels are new to Thunder Bay and already making a difference assisting people.

The Guardian Angels are new to Thunder Bay and already making a difference assisting people.

For more information, or to get involved visit the Guardian Angels Canada on Facebook

THUNDER BAY – FOOD NOW – Our friends at Foodland Ontario are sharing some tasty news on Maple Syrup.

Richard Bering, Sugar Maker, White Meadows Farms, Niagara says, “Traditionally, we start making maple syrup in the middle of February, depending on when it starts to warm up, and normally it goes to the end of March here in Niagara”.

“To collect sap, we need warm days and cool nights. As the spring gets closer, when it gets warm out, the sap travels up into the tops of the trees to supply the buds with the sugar that they need to produce leaves, and that’s the perfect time for us to drill that small hole into the tree, and during that travel of sap up and down the tree is when we actually collect the sap. It actually takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup. We have 5000 trees and each tree will produce, on average, 1 L of syrup. So the amount of sap that we actually have to collect is in the hundreds of thousands of litres of sap to create the product that we offer for sale.”

Fort William First Nation Maple Syrup

Stirring the sap to boil it down to the tasty maple syrup - Photo by Raili Alexander.

Stirring the sap to boil it down to the tasty maple syrup – Photo by Raili Alexander.

Boiling down the sap from the Maple Trees on the Fort William First Nation

Boiling down the sap from the Maple Trees on the Fort William First Nation

Sugar Shack on Nor'Westers

Sugar Shack on the Nor’Westers

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Fort William First Nation supports the City of Thunder Bay’s decision to reject the most recent and final offer from CN and to pursue them through the courts under the 1906 Agreement. The Agreement states the CN Rail must maintain the James Street Swing Bridge in perpetuity.

“FWFN is offended at CN’s latest ‘take it or leave it’ offer in which the First Nation would have to relinquished our inherent land rights and give up any historical current or future claims to those lands,” said Chief Georjann Morriseau. “FWFN is the community most affected by the James Street Bridge, both historically in terms of our land being expropriated, and today in the form of not being allowed to use the bridge that facilitated the occupation of our lands.”

In 1906, approximately 1,600 acres of FWFN was appropriated by Canada for the use of Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) pursuant to the Railway Act. This was the largest railway taking in the history of Canada. When the GTP went bankrupt in 1920, their rights were transferred to CN. As a result, a number of road allowances and a boat landing were surveyed out of the appropriation to protect Anishinaabeg access to the Kaministiquia River, and thus these rights of way remained reservation land. The fact that the road allowances and the boat landing are still FWFN reserve land today, has been confirmed by Canada.

During the entire negotiation process with the City of Thunder Bay and CN, FWFN has continued to come to the table with various solutions that would have seen the Bridge re-open to vehicle traffic. FWFN expressed clearly the issues surrounding safety for the FWFN membership however these concerns have gone unnoticed by CN.

FWFN efforts to date include:

1) FWFN would consider providing CN with the necessary Indian Act Section 28(2) permit and Indian Act Section 35 Right of Way road allowances, if CN acknowledged their 1906 obligations to maintain the James Street Bridge in perpetuity.

2) FWFN, by developing a partnership with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) was able to provide $1,000,000.00 towards remediation costs of the James Street Swing Bridge.

3) FWFN, along with government, has offered to provide mediation services to support the City of Thunder Bay and CN to come to an amicable outcome for all parties.

FWFN says, “CN continues to operate in bad faith with ‘take it or leave it approaches’ in the attempts to discredit and undermine the validity of the 1906 Agreement, and the rights of the Fort William First Nation. FWFN will consult with their Council this week to recommend alternative options such as a new bridge and report all feasible options to the respective FWFN membership”.

Closure of the bridge is costing businesses on both sides of the river a lot of money.

Closure of the bridge is costing businesses on both sides of the river a lot of money.

Too Much Focus on CN Rail and the Past?

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL - The James Street Bridge was built in 1904. The historic bridge is over 100 years old. With the fire on the bridge in 2013, the bridge was deemed unsafe for vehicle traffic. CN Rail, which has a long-standing agreement to maintain the bridge has made the bridge safe for train traffic.

Discussions have been on-going between the City of Thunder Bay and CN Rail for over a year. Those talks appear focused on getting the one hundred and ten year old structure open for vehicle traffic.

A view from the underside of the James Street Bridge - February 2014.

A view from the underside of the James Street Bridge – February 2014.

It appears lost in the process that what is really needed in the long-term is not a repaired bridge, but a new bridge. It is a process that should have Fort William First Nation, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the City of Thunder Bay working to a real solution.

Perhaps leaving the old bridge to CN rail might be the best process, if the company insists on standing back and playing what at best appear to be political games with the City of Thunder Bay.

Postcard image of the James Street Bridge

Postcard image of the James Street Bridge in its glory days.

Planning for a new bridge could be done with longer term economic benefits for Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay in mind.

Over time there has been discussion of a new highway to the Pigeon River US Border, one that would go along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior. Perhaps working toward a longer term view, and building toward the long term plans for waterfront development in Thunder Bay there could be a new route built.

The economic benefits for Westfort, Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation should rank at the top of the list for the location of a new bridge. Waiting for CN Rail is proving to be time-consuming, and defeats the process of moving forward.

For now, building a new bridge that would offer a safer route over the Kam River should be the priority.

Perhaps it is time that Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay City Council host a joint meeting where this could be discussed?

All of the political gamesmanship coming from CN Rail in this matter speak well to the company’s intention. Leave them the old CN Rail Bridge, let them figure out how to keep it going into the future.

Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation should simply stop fretting over what the rail company will do. Move forward. As the James Street Bridge ages, there will come a time when the safety of the entire structure will fall below acceptable safety standards.

The goal should not be in simply not having a temporary solution but a long-term solution.

James Murray

Power Pole knocked out again on the road to Fort William First Nation

Power Pole knocked out again on the road to Fort William First Nation

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION - Thunder Bay Police advise that Chippewa road between Mountain Road and James Street is currently down to one lane of traffic due to a single motor vehicle collision involving a hydro pole.

There are no injuries, however Hydro crews will be there for the next few hours.

People are asked to avoid the area if possible and to expect delays in travelling.

The Hydro Crews are working hard – This is the second time the same pole has been destroyed.

Chief Georjann Morriseau from Fort William First Nation is reportedly looking to solutions on this stretch of road.

Chief Georjann Morriseau Wins a 2014 Premier's Award. Confederation College President Jim Madder (left) Joins Her to Accept

Chief Georjann Morriseau Wins a 2014 Premier’s Award. Confederation College President Jim Madder (left) Joins Her to Accept

Honours for Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau

THUNDER BAY, ON – Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau has been honoured with the Premier’s Award.

Confederation College is proud to announce that Chief Georjann Morriseau, graduate of the Aboriginal Law and Advocacy program (2009), has won a provincial Premier’s Award.

This prestigious award recognizes the tremendous contributions Ontario’s college graduates make to the success of the province and beyond. The awards gala in which Chief Morriseau was announced as a winner took place on Monday, November 24, 2014 in Toronto. This year, there were a total of 114 nominees across six categories from Ontario’s 24 colleges.

Chief Morriseau was selected as one of two award recipients in the Recent Graduate category.

“When I first met Chief Georjann Morriseau, I was immediately struck by her ‘wisdom beyond her years’ and her incredible spirit,” said Jim Madder, President of Confederation College. “In her dealings with other people, she comes from a place of understanding with the positive attitude that anything can be achieved if one sets their mind to it. She really has vision. We are very proud to have witnessed Chief Morriseau’s growth since graduating from the College.”

Recognized by her professors as someone with admirable ties to the community and a strong desire to create positive social change, Chief Morriseau has risen to her newer role of Chief of Fort William First Nation, an accomplishment that is particularly impressive at such a young age. She was just 28 years old when she was elected to the community’s highest position.

Representing First Nations at the community, regional and national levels, Chief Morriseau strives to maintain a dialogue with organizations, municipalities and communities throughout Canada. She was instrumental in formalizing the Governance Development Network used for strategic planning in Ontario First Nation communities, and is leading her First Nation towards self-sustainability. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her incredible professionalism, diplomacy and leadership including two Confederation College President’s Awards (2013 and 2014).

Chief Morriseau credits her college education with giving her the tools and confidence she needed to become a more effective advocate.

“Going to Confederation College was the best thing that ever happened to me. It expanded my world view in terms of the historical context of being a First Nation person in Canada. I started learning more about our governance and our traditional core values. I knew all these, I had it inside me, but I never would have been able to articulate it without going to college.”

Confederation College applauds Chief Georjann Morriseau for being such an important role model for youth and congratulates her for receiving this well-deserved award!

Confederation College is also proud of its other 2014 Premier’s Award nominees:

* Robert Kucheran, International Business, Business Category
* Lori Hygaard, Practical Nursing Program, Health Sciences Category
* Trent Opaloch, Film Production, Creative Arts and Design Category

Since the awards’ inception in 1992, Confederation College has been honoured to share in a total of seven Premier’s Awards earned by its Alumni. Past recipients include:

2013 – Ramesh Ferris, Social Service Worker, Community Service Category
2008 – Andrew Moorey, Entrepreneurship, Business Category
2004 – Major Doug Clements, Aviation Flight Management, Technology Category
1994 – Gino Sonego, Architectural (Design) Technician, Technology Category
1993 – Bradley C. A. Greaves, Aviation (Flight) Management, Technology Category
1992 – Mae V. Katt, Diploma Nursing, Health Sciences Category

Thunder Bay Police advise that charges are pending in an accident that closed access to Fort William First Nation

Thunder Bay Police advise that charges are pending in an accident that closed access to Fort William First Nation

THUNDER BAY - The road is now open for one-way traffic allowing people to get in or out of Fort William First Nation.

Thunder Bay Police report, “A Thunder Bay Police Traffic unit investigation has started into a single motor vehicle crash that happened around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning on Chippewa Road just west of the James St. intersection.

What is known at this point is that a male fourteen year old driver lost control of a black Kia sedan traveling west bound at high speed.

The car struck a power line that carries 25,000 volts. The pole was snapped, but very fortunately, the wires were not broken and didn’t hit the ground.

There were four male passengers all of similar ages inside the vehicle at the time. Injuries range from very serious to minor.

Police are continuing the investigation and assisting Thunder Bay Hydro at the work site through the day. Hydro expects to be on site for several hours.

Police advise that charges are pending.

Accident on Chippewa Road

Accident on Chippewa Road

Hundreds of people gathered and made the journey up the hill to Mount McKay for the Fort William First Nation Remembrance Day Services

Hundreds of people gathered and made the journey up the hill to Mount McKay for the Fort William First Nation Remembrance Day Services

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Hundreds of people made the winding trek up the mountain this morning to show honour and respect to all Canadian Soldiers with a special focus on Aboriginal Veterans

The smoking peace pipe, calling of the drums, gathering of Chiefs, good intentions and people even enticed a few Eagles to float above and watch over the services.

With poems, stories and wreaths, families and organizations showed their support of the soldiers who have and are putting their lives on the line for our country and others freedom

“To support a soldier does not mean you support war, it simply means you support that person, their families and their intentions to help and serve”

The service was followed by a hot luncheon provided by FWFN at the Community Center with Students of KIHS serving and helping out.

The Mt McKay service was started in 1995 by WWII Veteran Pte Frank Banning of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment and FWFN Member as a way to honour and shine light on Aboriginal Veterans who until then were not recognized at Memorials.  Since his passing in 2010, his family has taken on the tradition and duty wholeheartedly.  

Daughter Cathy Banning has taken on role of main organizer with Granddaughter Kateri Skaarup waiting in the wings.  

“My Grandfather had 11 kids and around 80 grand kids (including great-great-great grandchildren)

Between us and the wonderful members of FWFN we have tons of help and support- we will continue this service of honour as long as this mountain is here-”

Kateri Banning-Skaarup

COO Skaarup Construction, FWFN Member

The cross at the Lookout on Mount McKay is a symbol for the soldiers who died defending freedoms.

The cross at the Lookout on Mount McKay is a symbol for the soldiers who died defending freedoms.

Traffic along the roadway to and from Fort William First Nation and Chippewa Park - Photo by Damien Lee

Traffic along the roadway to and from Fort William First Nation and Chippewa Park – Photo by Damien Lee

THUNDER BAY - Traffic to and from Fort William First Nation and Chippewa Park and along Highway 61 South are snarled up in traffic jams today. Construction delays are generating a lot of frustration.

Road construction to put in an additional lane are causing the traffic jam.

There will be road work ongoing today and on Remembrance Day. Weather permitting from 10AM until 3PM, the work will be ongoing.  After that, the intersection at Highway 61 South and Chippewa Road will be under construction and more delays are expected.

Many are concerned for the Remembrance Day Services at Fort William First Nation on November 11th.


The traffic demonstrates the need for substantive action in first repairing the James Street Bridge, and second in replacing the bridge with a new and more modern bridge.

The James Street Bridge is closed to all but train traffic. It has been closed since an October 2013 fire damaged the bridge.

The bridge which is under an agreement with CN Rail and the City of Thunder Bay stemming from the early days when it was Fort William and the railway has both sides locked in legal wrangling.

The cost to businesses in Westfort and on Fort William First Nation have continued to climb.

One of the issues that is coming forward now is transit service to Fort William First Nation – with the bridge closure people without cars who used to be able to easily walk across the bridge now sees them stranded for long periods of time.

Perhaps it is time for the federal government to step up and work with Fort William First Nation toward building a new bridge.


Fort William First Nation Chief Georgian Morrisseau

Fort William First Nation Chief Georgian Morrisseau

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – UPDATED - Over the course of the last few weeks Chief, members of Council and Administration of Fort William First Nation with the assistance of the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Canada (AANDC) regional office have been in serious negotiations with CN.  The outcome of these meetings resulted in a reasonable solution to open the James Street Swing Bridge.

“The First Nation has taken what we feel all the necessary steps in good faith to come up with a solution that would allow the bridge to be open to vehicular traffic by winter.” said Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau.  “Through a partnership with AANDC Fort William First Nation was able to offer $1,000,000 towards the remediation of the James Street Swing Bridge. “Without Fort William First Nation and AANDC coming together and presenting this offer to CN we would not have been able to entertain opening the bridge in a timely manner.” added Chief Morriseau.

CN continues to seek relief under the 1906 agreement which FWFN is not a party to, the First Nation has continued to work in positive manner to come up with an answer to this issue.

“The course of the past year has been incredibly challenging and we feel our efforts are being dismissed and thrown into the middle of CN and the City of Thunder Bay.” said Chief Morriseau.

The James Street Bridge is closed to all but CN Rail trains.

The James Street Bridge is closed to all but CN Rail trains.

“CN has refused to accept FWFN’s offer and instead wishes to replace a historic legal agreement and additionally is seeking insurance on the investment for their railway portion if the city should pursue them under the 1906 agreement.  The opinion of Fort William First Nation is that this is unreasonable and offensive towards the cooperative efforts that have been maintained throughout this process. CN continues to only be interested in protecting their best interests and not those of the communities of Fort William First Nation and the City of Thunder Bay”.

Chief Morriseau states, “As we approach the one year mark since the devastating fire we are reminded again that this is a matter that has been identified as beyond a point of inconvenience.  It forces our children to be bussed to school along less safe routes; it has delayed response times for vital emergency services making calls; it has had drastic impacts on the economies of both FWFN and the southern core of Thunder Bay.  We cannot stress enough how imperative it is that the bridge reopen as soon as possible because while this has  a direct impact on both communities, CN seems to be the only party involved  that continues to prosper without any negative repercussions”.

City of Thunder Bay Jumps In

The City of Thunder Bay will consider the proposal CN Rail has reportedly made in regards to the James Street Bridge once a formal offer in writing is received. The City has yet to receive any formal documentation and CN has been asked to put their full proposal in writing to the City.

“The reality is the proposal raises new issues, including liability and access limitations such as one-lane traffic only with two sets of signals, that would have to be addressed in a new agreement,” said City Manager Tim Commisso. “We totally recognize and appreciate the importance of this matter and it is extremely important we do our due diligence considering they are asking to get out of the original 1906 agreement. The City has met with Fort William First Nation and made them aware of what is happening from our end.”

The City Solicitor along with City Administration will be reporting back on a priority basis once we have the proposal in writing.

Sources tell NetNewsLedger that there are people in the community who are set to simply block the bridge until there is a solution, preventing trains from crossing. That is a solution that isn’t in the cards for Fort William First Nation Chief and Council.