Blockade of James St. bridge a last resort, chief says

Frustration continues to grow over the closure of the James Street swing bridge.
It’s still unclear when the James Street bridge will reopen to vehicle and pedestrian traffic as CN Rail awaits a final consultants’ report about the damage caused by last month’s fire. (CBC)

Frustration continues to grow over the closure of the James Street swing bridge.

A fire shut down the CN-owned bridge to vehicle traffic back in October, although trains still run.

About 100 people — business owners and residents — gathered for a public meeting last night at the Fort William First Nation.

Fort William First Nation resident Marlene Pierre says the band council has been patient with CN's closure of the James Street bridge and suggests a blockade may be in order. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

After a presentation that showed local business down an average of 40 percent since the fire, Marlene Pierre got the crowd’s attention by suggesting a blockade.

Pierre said the Fort William First Nation council has been patient with CN — but with no end in sight to the closure, it might be time to turn up the heat.

“You can't wait forever. And that was expressed quite well tonight by the other business owners who are here on this side of the bridge,” she told CBC News.

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau said she understands the high level of frustration, and knows businesses are struggling. She added she is worried about the longer response times for fire and EMS services.

But Morriseau said she hopes a blockade would be considered a last resort.

Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau says the destruction of a wigwam on Mount McKay has hurt the community. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

“I ask that people give us time now to advocate and assert ourselves that much more further before taking an approach such as blockading.”

Morriseau says the concerns expressed at the meeting will be turned into an action plan. That plan will then be item one on the agenda next week, when she meets with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Ottawa.

The Fort William First Nation did invite CN to the open meeting last night according to director of lands and properties Ian Bannon.

Bannon told the meeting that CN “sent their regrets” in an email.

He also said the company was working on a report about the James Street Swing bridge and hoped to have the results in March. 


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