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

The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List

The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List

CN Seeks Thunder Bay to Put Up Money for Bridge

THUNDER BAY – CN has sent a letter to Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs. In that letter, the company states that it would like to see the City of Thunder Bay put in funds that would help to repair the James Street Bridge.

The company is seeking that its original agreement to maintain the bridge in effect be cancelled because the bridge has exceeded its useful life.

The text of the original agreement reads: “The Company will maintain the bridge in perpetuity without cost to the Town except the cost and maintenance of streetcar rail sand trolley wires which will be furnished by the Town or Electric Railway Company using the bridge; and that the space allowed for Town traffic on each side of the bridge, be sufficient to accommodate streetcar vehicular traffic and separate passage for foot passengers.”

This is likely a case where the company has difficulty living up to the agreement that it in effect took over once CN took over Grand Trunk Railway.

CN made a profit last year of $2,600,000,000 in fiscal 2014.

CN is seeking a reported $1.5 million from Thunder Bay in order to allow for repairs to the bridge to allow vehicles to travel over the centre part of the bridge. This would be a short-term solution.

Text of CN’s Letter

We have now had a chance to consider the position of the Fort William First Nation regarding CN’s title to its right-of-way over road allowances. Our response will be communicated to FWFN this day. We are hopeful this will allow us to resume negotiations.

The City has elected to advocate this issue in the media. We do not believe this is an effective way to find an expedient resolution to this issue; but then again neither are the threats made by the City at each meeting to attack CN’s reputation if it did not obtain satisfaction.

The City’s description of the issue ignores basic facts and suggests the condition of the James Street Bridge is the result of CN’s failure to maintain the Bridge. The City has no evidence to support that claim. The Bridge was originally designed with a useful life of 75 years. It has outlived that useful life by more than 30 years, something that could never have been achieved without proper maintenance.

The City continues to suggest that the fact the railway bridge continues to be used is evidence the vehicular roadway is equally sound. This is not accurate.

The City knows, and its engineers have recognized during our meetings, that the roadway structure is, for all intents and purposes, a separate structure than the railway structure. The independent engineers commissioned by CM have confirmed the roadway structure poses a serious safety risk and the only way to prevent potentially fatal incidents is to close the bridge to vehicular traffic. CN has followed the engineers’ recommendation. Doing anything else would be completely irresponsible.

CN has conveyed its position to the City with respect to the 1906 Agreement.

The 1906 Agreement provides for the maintenance of the James Street Bridge, not its replacement. The expression “in perpetuity” has to be read in that context. In an effort to resolve this issue and avoid protracted and costly litigation, CN has made an offer to the City: CN offered to share its rail deck with vehicular traffic until a longer-term solution could be developed. CN offered to contribute 50% to the cost of that short-term solution, up to a maximum amount of in consideration for an acknowledgement that CN had discharged its obligation under the 1906 Agreement. We explained that CN cannot make a significant contribution towards the cost of the short-term solution only to get sued by the City over the 1906 Agreement.

Recognizing that the City has a different position over the 1906 Agreement, CN offered the alternative to the City of paying 100% of the short-term solution and litigate over the 1906 Agreement, seeking in that context recovery of its contribution to the short-term solution. While CN does not believe the City is
entitled to either, the City appears to believe othenrwise. If the City is confident in its position, they should be comfortable with that option.

The City countered by offering to contribute to the roadway improvements (costs it would, in any event, be responsible for) and reserving its rights under the 1906 Agreement. This counter-offer ignores all of the fundamentals of CN’s offer.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, CN has done further work in the last few weeks and would be prepared to offer another alternative to the City: to share its rail deck with vehicular traffic for as long as the railwav bridqe can safelv accommodate such traffic. CN reiterates its offer to financially contribute to
this solution. CN would propose to replace the 1906 Agreement by a new agreement evidencing this arrangement.

We believe this proposition represents a non-costly, expedient and effective option. Our team would be prepared to start the work within days of an agreement and we estimate the work could be completed and the bridge reopened within weeks. This option would save the millions of dollars and years it would take to build a new bridge. While vehicular traffic would have to yield to rail traffic, the impact should be limited given the rail volumes and, if those volumes were to increase, the other access alternative would remain available to alleviate congestion, if and when it occurred.

In view of the claims asserted by FWFN, CN would also be looking for assurances that its title and its right to operate would not be challenged going forward.

We believe this offer is a reasonable way to avoid litigation. That being said, should the City feel differently, it has the option to litigate. Should it decide to do so, however, CN’s offer to contribute to the short-term option would be rescinded and, should CN’s position prevail ultimately, its offer to attach a new roadway structure to the existing rail bridge would equally be rescinded.

We understand the City council convenes on the 21st. As such, our final offer is opened for acceptance until 17h00 EST on the 22nd.

Traffic is backed up on Fort William First Nation.

Traffic is backed up on Fort William First Nation.

THUNDER BAY - Usually in Thunder Bay the term traffic jam refers to what people who have lived in Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver would call “Rush Minute”.

Traffic Jams are bad for business.

Traffic Jams are bad for business.

On Tuesday, construction on the roads have huge traffic jams on Mission Road, and on Highway 61 heading south.

The problem is being added to as nice weather takes people out to, or at least trying to get out to Chippewa Park. People were stuck on the road for up to ninety minutes on Tuesday.

Traffic was worse starting at 4PM. People getting off work told NetNewsLedger of being stuck in their vehicles for over an hour as they waited for traffic to get moving.

Thunder Bay Fire Rescue responded to a call at Mount McKay on the FWFN last night, hikers were stuck on the mountain after dark. If the same situation were to have happened during the day, with the backed up traffic, the problem for EMS would have been far worse.

FWFN, the City of Thunder Bay and CN Rail appeared mired in a dance of deliberations over fixing the James Street Bridge.

It often appears that for CN, the people stuck waiting for a solution are the ones being left behind. So too are the people on FWFN whose jobs depend on getting to and from work, or depend on people driving out to the First Nation.

Its long past time for action for many people.

CN Rail is responding to both Fort William First Nation and the City of Thunder Bay, stating in effect that they don’t appreciate being threatened.

The text of the agreement that has been binding since the bridge was built reads:

“The Company will maintain the bridge in perpetuity without cost to the Town except the cost and maintenance of streetcar rail sand trolley wires which will be furnished by the Town or Electric Railway Company using the bridge; and that the space allowed for Town traffic on each side of the bridge, be sufficient to accommodate streetcar vehicular traffic and separate passage for foot passengers.”

The bridge has not been maintained in the manner agreed to in the contract since October 31 2013.

CN Train loaded with lumber stuck on the south side of the tracks.

CN Train loaded with lumber stuck on the south side of the tracks.


CN took care to get the bridge working for trains in a hurry. Getting it running for vehicles and passenger traffic has continued to appear low on CN’s priority list.

4139-008 1906 Agreement #8 Grand Trunk Railway -Bridge

The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List

The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List

Action on James Street Bridge Needed

THUNDER BAY – The James Street Bridge remains a closed barrier to people, and vehicles. The CN Rail traffic is continuing to use the bridge.

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau states, “The permitting FWFN has addressed is within legal context. Contrary to what may have been expressed; there are currently NO agreements that address or provide these permits for any right of ways”.

FWFN asserts that CN has tracks that are trespassing on their lands.

“We are looking to meet/speak with AANDC on the matter to reaffirm this. To date, no real substantial or meaningful solution has been proposed to open the bridge. Very one sided in my opinion,” adds the Chief.

Evicting CN Rail in British Columbia

The move comes as British Columbia Anishinabek communities have issued eviction notices to CN Rail and forestry companies.

Simgiigyet’m Gitwangak and Gitsegukla issued eviction notices Thursday, to all Sports Fisheries, Forest Industry and CN Rail to leave Gitxsan lax yip by August 4, 2014.

“This notice is pursuant to ayokim Gitxsan supported by the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that the Crown must obtain consent and preserve the interests of the Gitxsan before carrying on any activities on Gitxsan lax yip, 33,000 sq km of territory in northwestern British Columbia,” stated the Gitxsan Treaty Organization.

In a statement released on Thursday the GTO state, “This eviction notice affects all sports fisheries on the Skeena River and tributaries, all forest activities authorized by BC Timber Sales and FLNRO, and CN Rail. All are expected to vacate and cease activities on August 4, 2014 until both Crowns have obtained the required consent of the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs.

“The Crowns have carried on what the Gitxsan Chiefs believe to be a fraudulent consultation process by FLNRO BC Timber Sales and have not implemented any consultations before permitting sports fisheries and transportation of goods by CN Rail. This is a huge trespass on Gitxsan lands by the Crown and makes futile any efforts by the BC LNG Team to develop any meaningful relationship or reconciliation with the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs”.

Sagum Higookw, Vernon Smith stated “In line with our ayookw, the Supreme Court of Canada says repelling trespassers is a necessary element of our title.”

“The Crowns refuse to abide by the rulings of BC courts that the Gitxsan have strong prima facie rights and good prima facie title to these lands since contact in 1846. “There is no legislative authority,” says Negotiator Beverley Clifton Percival, “for these government bureaucrats to make determinations regarding Gitxsan strength of title and rights. Without the consent by the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs they are trespassers.”

“The Crown has never been honourable in their engagement with the Gitksen since 1997,” says Tenimgyet, Art Mathews, “Harvesters of trees and fish are now evicted.”

Fort William First Nation on Off-roaders

Mount McKay Pow Wow Grounds

In March 2012 the Pow Wow Grounds were also desecrated – Photo by Jim Peter Chicago

The Fort William First Nation has set in place a precedent as well. Off-roaders have been banned from the community lands. The move came after the Pow Wow grounds in the community were damaged by four-wheelers.

The senseless act came in 2012, and led to action by the Chief and Council. No one has tried to fight the restrictions.

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

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

THUNDER BAY – The James Street Bridge remains closed. The closure has the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation in meetings with CN Rail. Apparently missing from those meetings are representatives of the federal and provincial governments.

Getting the bridge opened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and them putting in place a permanent solution is a critical move that must happen. Any accident on either Highway 61 or on Chippewa Road means major inconvenience for residents, but even more importantly for Emergency Responders.

The James Street Bridge remains closed to train, vehicle and pedestrian traffic

The James Street Bridge remains closed to train, vehicle and pedestrian traffic

People needing help, either from fire or needing medical attention are seeing the response times bumped up by at least ten minutes each way.

When you consider the importance of speedy medical care, that twenty minute addition to a trip chews up a lot of time from what medical experts call the “Golden Hour”.

Mayor Hobbs who has expressed that the city may have to step up and put in some money to get the bridge fixed and get traffic moving across it again. That move would basically send a dangerous message to CN and would likely give CN the ticket it needs to walk away from the agreement that the railway has with the City and Fort William First Nation.

Getting the bridge open again will help business, and will provide a short term solution to the traffic issues.

The real solution is in getting a new bridge built, and that is why the federal and provincial governments need to be at the table.

Until that happens, it is likely there will only be more talk. Some on the First Nation are getting frustrated and have expressed that action is needed.

James Murray