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

Thunder Bay Fire RescueTHUNDER BAY – UPDATED - An motor vehicle accident on Chippewa Road has sent a man to Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. The single vehicle accident happened just before 06:00EDT on Chippewa Road on the Fort William First Nation. As of 09:45 one lane is now open for traffic.

The vehicle rolled over near the intersection of Chippewa Road and Mountain Road on the FWFN.

Crews are on hand with the vehicle that was involved in the accident at 06:00 this am - Photo by Jim Peters Chicago

Crews are on hand with the vehicle that was involved in the accident at 06:00 this am – Photo by Jim Peters Chicago

Thunder Bay Fire Service reports that rescue crews extricated a man. He was trapped under the vehicle after he had been thrown from it.

Fire Rescue says that the full extent of the man’s injuries are unknown at this time.

Another man in the vehicle was able to get out before help arrived.

Thunder Bay Police are investigating the incident.

Right now the road is closed as police investigate the accident.Motorists can detour – Use 15th Side Road from Mountain Road to the highway. It will take an extra five minutes