CN Rail and Fort William First Nation Negotiations Ongoing

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The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List
The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List
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.

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