Thunder Bay

Gogama train derailment highlights treaty infringement, chief says

First Nations chiefs from across Ontario will gather on Thursday to decide how best to deal with railways and pipelines they say are violating their constitutional rights.

First Nations 'tired of being pawns in Canada's addiction to oil,' regional chief Stan Beardy says

The submerged rail cars seen in this photo have now been retrieved from the river after the March 7 derailment of this CN train near Gogama, Ont. (Transportation Safety Board)
...After a third train derailment in less than a month, First Nations in Ontario say they're tired of being pawns in Canada's addiction to oil. We'll hear from Regional Chief Stan Beardy. 8:07

The third train derailment in less than a month in northern Ontario represents a clear violation of indigenous rights, says Stan Beardy, the Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

An investigation is underway at the site of the most recent derailment on Saturday near Gogama, Ont. but it's still not clear how much oil was spilled when two rail cars landed in the Mattagami River system.

Nearby Mattagami First Nation is hiring its own environmental specialist to look into the impact of the derailment on air and water quality.

"When we talk about the transporting of dangerous goods, like crude oil, through First Nations territories there has to be safeguards to make sure that the way of life of First Nations people is protected and intact as much as possible," Beardy said.

"We are tired of being pawns in Canada’s addiction to oil,” he said.

The right to practice traditional lifestyles such as hunting, fishing and trapping are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, Beardy said, "but you need healthy animals, healthy birds, healthy fish. If they're contaminated then someone is violating that constitutional right."

Chiefs from across Ontario will gather on Thursday to decide how best to address their concerns with railways and pipelines.

Beardy said he'd like to see a legal strategy focusing on the duty of railways and pipelines to consult and accommodate First Nations.

There are currently no provisions for First Nations even to be notified about dangerous materials being transported across traditional territories, he said.