James Street swing bridge.  – Photo courtesy of NetNewsledger

James Street swing bridge. – Photo courtesy of NetNewsledger

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 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.

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.