The closure of Thunder Bay's James Street Swing Bridge has caught the attention of the Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy.

A fire damaged the bridge last October, closing it to vehicles but not to rail traffic.

Beardy said it's time for the rest of Canada to hear about the hardship this has imposed on the Fort William First Nation.

At a meeting this week, Beardy listened as business owners talked about the losses they've suffered since the bridge closure.

Beardy said he's also concerned for the safety of children who are now bussed to school on a busy highway during rush hour.


Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says it's time for the rest of Canada to know about the plight of Fort William First Nation since a bridge to the community was closed to vehicle traffic by CN Rail. The bridge was damaged by fire in late October. (CBC)

He said the country should know what's going on.  

“I think it is important we get the story out … to say this is how CN is behaving towards its neighbours,” he said. “I think that message needs to go out.”

The MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River said the federal government has been absent on the swing bridge issue.

“The federal government doesn't seem interested in even sitting down at a table or returning phone calls, or talking with First Nations about the issues that means so much to them,” John Rafferty said.

Beardy added he thinks all MPs and MPPs should be made aware of the plight of the Fort William First Nation — and promises to use his high profile as Regional Chief, to help make that happen.

In a statement Tuesday, CN said it's aware of the community's concerns about the bridge, adding that its priority is to ensure the safety of all who use it. The statement added that  a comprehensive assessment of the bridge is needed before it can address the road issue, and that it is keeping the leadership of the First Nation updated.

A call by CBC News requesting comment from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's Thunder Bay office was not returned as of late Wednesday morning.