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.

Fort William First Nation Keeps Growing

THUNDER BAY – FORT WILLIAM FN – Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau shared thoughts for students returning to school on Saturday at Marina Park in Thunder Bay. The Chief is leading her community in a number of efforts. Work on a new housing development is ongoing, as well as work on up on the mountain to improve the Pow Wow Grounds.

Chief Morriseau states that students need to keep following their dreams, and keep going in their education.

The work at the Pow Wow Grounds is scheduled to be completed by late September or early October.

The need for housing on Fort William First Nation is key as the community continues to grow.

Work is ongoing at Fort William First Nation as a new housing development was launched and work continues at the Pow Wow Grounds on Thunder Mountain, Mount McKay

Work is ongoing at Fort William First Nation as a new housing development was launched and work continues at the Pow Wow Grounds on Thunder Mountain, Mount McKay

Fort William First Nation (FWFN) and Oshki-Aki LP hosted a ground breaking ceremony at the future site of Fort William First Nation’s new subdivision on Friday. Chief Georjann Morriseau, Fort William First Nation Council members, Elder Vic Pelletier, along with Oshki-Aki LP President Eric Zakrewski, broke ground at the new twenty lot subdivision and recreational site.

Ground-Breaking ceremony of new Housing Development on Fort William First Nation

Ground-Breaking ceremony of new Housing Development on Fort William First Nation


“Fort William First Nation is proud to present yet another community driven development initiative that is being managed by our engineering firm Oshki-Aki LP,” stated Chief Georjann Morriseau. The new subdivision will feature a state-of-the-art stormwater management plan and a public recreation site. “Our intent is to build capacity in the community through our partnership firm, provide housing opportunities to our members, and promote an active lifestyle for youth, through Oshki-Aki we are doing just that,” added Morriseau.

The new subdivision is roughly 4.6 hectares in size and was designed around a distinct stormwater management strategy for single family dwellings.

“Our plan is to keep the houses high and dry, away from any chance of flooding,” stated Eric Zakrewski, President of Oshki-Aki LP. FWFN utilized its joint venture partnership Oshki-Aki LP to manage the overall project which included concept, design and contract administration of the new site. “We are pleased to assist our partner Fort William First Nation in this initiative and we look forward to contributing to many more community milestones,” added Zakrewski.

Through Oshki-Aki LP, FWFN employs local members and provides material and labour outsourcing opportunities to local First Nation businesses. The joint venture partnership has the capabilities to provide technical support and expertise in the areas of engineering, environment, air and surveying, which enables Fort William First Nation to take on a variety of community based initiatives such as the subdivision. Construction is anticipated to be completed by next year.

Fort William First Nation is located just south of Thunder Bay Ontario. From the Pow Wow Grounds there is an amazing view out over Lake Superior

Fort William First Nation is located just south of Thunder Bay Ontario. From the Pow Wow Grounds there is an amazing view out over Lake Superior

The expanded Pow Wow Grounds are a demonstration of the growing importance of traditional culture in Canada's Anishinabek communities.

The expanded Pow Wow Grounds are a demonstration of the growing importance of traditional culture in Canada’s Anishinabek communities.

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION - “If this means what we think it means, Fort William First Nation is very happy,” stated Chief Georjann Morriseau. The cancellation of the FIT Contract on the Horizon Wind Farm on the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment was a “huge team effort” stated the Chief. “It showed the value of hard work and focused teamwork”.

Fort William First Nation has remained adamant that their members were not properly consulted on the project.

“This sends the message about treaty, about consultations and accomodation,” stated Morrisseau.

“This is quite the success for FWFN and surrounding communities. We will continue to pursue appropriate ministries to confirm the next steps. At this time it is highly unlikely the REA application will be approved or even go forward,” added the Chief. “This was a team effort from various supporters that we would like to send sincere thanks to such as the escarpment committee, Neebing township, Bill Mauro, Mike Gravelle and many others”.

And a special thank you to FWFN membership and leadership for your tireless efforts and support in protecting our treaty rights and the Loch Lomond watershed.

The Fort William First Nation Chief has stood firm in opposition to the Wind Farm over the past years. “The past year we have had to really up our efforts”.

Since the beginning of the process, Morriseau has stated that this is a “Nation to Nation consultation and that, Treaty trumps policy”.

Consultation Process

Treaty Rights and Responsibility

OPP Tactical Unit on Fort William First Nation

OPP Tactical Unit on Fort William First Nation

THUNDER BAY - A Fort William First Nations man who was the subject of brief manhunt on Wednesday now faces a long list of charges.

  • Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle Causing Bodily Harm
  • Resisting a Peace Officer
  • Assaulting Peace Officer
  • Failure to Comply with Recognizance.
  • Two counts of Driving While Under Suspension
  • Using a Licence Plate Not Authorized for Vehicle
  • Failure to Surrender Permit for Vehicle
  • Unsafe Operation of a Vehicle
  • Disobey Stop Sign
  • Failure to Have Insurance Card

The man assaulted a police officer who required treatment at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

The incident started with a routine traffic stop on Chippewa Road. A Police Officer was struck after the vehicle driven by the accused left the scene while Police were still speaking with him.

A short distance later the suspect abandoned the vehicle, and ran off into the nearby woods.

The suspect has been remanded to Thunder Bay District Jail while the case winds through the courts.

OPP Tactical Unit on Fort William First Nation

OPP Tactical Unit on Fort William First Nation – Image by Mike Ignace

Breaking Story…

THUNDER BAY – Members of the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in an incident on Fort William First Nation this afternoon. The Tactical Unit along with the Canine Unit were involved in what sources are saying was a manhunt.

A brief manhunt followed and police took the suspect a male into custody.

The incident started after a vehicle was stopped at a routine traffic stop on Highway 61. The suspect fled, and made his way onto Mountain Road.

Police were in pursuit and gathered the needed resources to capture the suspect. A short search of about five minutes resulted in the arrest of the suspect.

The incident took place on Mountain Road on the First Nation.

OPP Units and Superior EMS were involved in the search for a man, who sources say has been arrested.

OPP Units and Superior EMS were involved in the search for a man, who sources say has been arrested. Image by Mike Ignace

Breaking story….

CN Rail Proposal on James Street Bridge Rejected

THUNDER BAY - The City of Thunder Bay has rejected an offer from CN Rail with the James Street Swing Bridge. Mayor Hobbs says that “CN has not been acting like a good corporate citizen.”

The Mayor and City Manager presented the city’s stand today at a media conference at City Hall.

Council met for five hours on Monday in a closed session, and voted unanimously to reject the CN proposal that would have seen the City of Thunder Bay put up $1.5 million toward the repairs and maintainance of the James Street Bridge.

“We have no alternative but to take the time for this in-depth legal review,” added Mayor Hobbs. “We are frustrated on behalf of the residents of the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation who rely on the bridge to travel between our two community for work, business, and day-to-day activities”.

CN Rail Not a Good Corporate Citizen – Mayor Keith Hobbs

Mayor Keith Hobbs states that "CN is not a good corporate citizen".

Mayor Keith Hobbs states that “CN is not a good corporate citizen”.

“CN owns, operates and controls the bridge, they are solely responsible for the decision to keep the bridge closed or to reopen it to vehicles and pedestrians”.

Key Dates

  • March 29, 1905 – Town of Fort William and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway enter an agreement to make Thunder Bay a major western terminus of operations
  • March 28, 1906 – Town of Fort William and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company execute an agreement pertaining to the construction of the bridge, which includes the stipulation that Grand Trunk – which subsequently became CN – is responsible to “maintain the bridge in perpetuity”
  • Oct. 24, 2013 – the City offers to cooperate with CN on a structural assessment of the bridge [no response has been forthcoming from CN]
  • Oct. 29, 2013 – Fire damages the bridge. The cause of the fire is unknown.
  • Nov. 1, 2013 – CN reopens the bridge to train traffic only. It remains closed to vehicular traffic.
  • July 15, 2014 – CN makes public its offer with options and conditions to open the bridge within weeks to vehicular and pedestrian traffic – these include a full and final release of CN from the 1906 agreement


July 21, 2014 – City Council rejects CN’s offer and commits to a more detailed and broader legal review