First Nations affected by major oil spills into waterways from train accidents in northern Ontario

Press release from Chief of Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy


TORONTO, ON (March 10, 2015) --- Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy is calling Canada's ways of getting oil to market in direct conflict with Indigenous rights and public safety after a second devastating oil spill this past weekend on Mattagami First Nation territory, the third CN derailment in northern Ontario in less than a month and the second near the First Nation community within three weeks.

"As the fifth largest oil producing country in the world and the largest single source of oil imports into the United States, Canada utilizes an aging and climate change affected pipeline and rail transportation network that crosses First Nations territories-we are tired of being pawns in Canada's addiction to oil," said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy.

While calls for cooperation between Mattagami First Nation, Canadian National Railway and the federal and provincial governments seem to be heeded on the investigation, mitigation and monitoring of the spill sites-Mattagami First Nation is not assured that their homelands have not suffered irreparable damage. After the first derailment, the people of Mattagami were advised to refrain from eating fish from the creek adjacent to the rail line which is a tributary to the Upper Kasasway Lake and Mattagami River Watershed. "The relationship with the land as cuts right to heart of being a First Nations person-this makes me terribly saddened for not only the people of Mattagami, but the waters, ground, trees, plants and animal life affected," stated Regional Chief Beardy.

"Canada's transportation policy and regulations on pipelines and railways are putting First Nations and the environment at major risk and are infringing on our ability to exercise our Treaty, and other rights," stated Regional Chief Beardy.  "19th century infrastructure and railway history is founded on colonization, in fact, the building of the Intercolonial Railway was a condition written into the Constitution Act, 1867. Nowhere in history did Indigenous people in Canada give their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to building railways and pipelines and today our people and environment suffer the consequences for that and still ignored on our right to provide our FPIC," he added.

Currently, no provisions are in place to notify or consult First Nation communities about the transportation of hazardous material like crude oil, spent fuel, and other radioactive material shipped through their traditional territories. This is in direct contravention of the government's duty to consult and accommodate First Nations.

First Nations in Ontario have expressed anger and concern about the derailments taking place in the Province over the past month. Treaty regions will be meeting this Thursday to finalize a strategy to address concerns with some recommendations already coming forward from First Nation leadership.

The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.


For more information, please contact:
Jamie Monastyrski, Communications
Phone: 807-630-7087 - Email:


Press release from Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin

Oil spills in Northern Ontario should be a wakeup call 

March 10, 2015 

We have reached a turning point when it comes to looking after the environment in Northern Ontario. There are numerous examples of how things are changing, but here are three distinct illustrations. 

In the past two weeks, there have been two major tanker train derailments which have spilled millions of litres of crude oil into the environment near Gogama, Ontario. 

In an ironic twist, the Ministry of Natural Resources recently shut down their Gogama office after years of cutbacks, leading one to wonder about their capacity to respond to this incident. Who now has the capacity and availability to do the years of ecosystem monitoring to see what the long-term impacts of the oil spills will be on the rivers flowing north from Gogama all the way to James Bay? 

I believe it will be left to the local First Nations to keep an eye on how the waters, fish and wildlife are impacted. 
Without having the financial resources to do the necessary scientific monitoring and reporting, we will have to have our Traditional Ecological Knowledge be heard somehow. 

The second example has to do with planning for the future. In what the Province likes to call the "Far North", but which I and other Mushkego people call home, the Province is trying to manage land use planning, using staff based in Peterborough and Timmins. This system is not working and the First Nations are slowly moving out from this remote control from the Province and developing their own land use plans. 

The final example is an opportunity that I have spent a great deal of time exploring. Recently Mushkegowuk Council has been looking at First Nation led and managed prospects to build access and bring power to the Ring of Fire, in the heart of the "Far North". I believe that as the people who will be impacted by the development we should also be the people to look after how the projects are developed. 

The common theme throughout these changes is the determination of First Nations not to be left out of developments, opportunities and responses to environmental threats any longer. 

These examples point to a new way of doing business in Northern Ontario. Our First Nations have always been present on the land and understand it better than anyone else. We have a growing capacity and expertise in planning, developing environmental protocols, land protection and monitoring.

Both the Federal and Provincial governments have slowly taken themselves out of the picture when it comes to looking after the environment. The Federal government has gutted the Department of Fisheries and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Meanwhile, the Ontario government has slowly withdrawn support from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment. 

The old ways of doing "development" are slowly changing. It is up to our First Nations to help guide the way into a future that not only brings prosperity but also ensures our lands, waters and environment are protected and are sustained for future generations. 
As the oil pipeline of Energy East snakes its way across the country with more oil flowing 24/7, we will have to pay more attention, and have more rigour in our attempt to live in a clean and safe world, now and in the future. 

People behind these developments also have significant responsibility and they must also be made accountable. 

We all have families we love. Caring for the land is like caring for our family. We are interested in working with individuals, corporations and governments who share and support this vision. 

Mushkegowuk Council is a regional organization that represents the collective interests of the Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree, Taykwa Tagamou and Attawapiskat First Nations in northeastern Ontario. 

For inquiries on this statement, please contact Grand Chief Lawrence Martin at or 705-658-4222, ext. 102 or cell: 705-363-7122 



Open letter to Treaty First Nations in Ontario

March 10, 2015


Chief Isadore Day

Chief Isadore Day



To:                  Ontario Treaty Region / First Nations Chiefs and Councils

From:             Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief

Re:                  Treaty Regions Impacted Rail Transportation / Derailments 

Date:              Monday, March 9, 2015


c.c              Assembly of First Nations - National Chief Perry Bellgarde

Chiefs of Ontario - Regional Chief Stand Beardy

Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper

Federal Minister of Transportation Lisa Raitt

Federal Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq

Federal Minister of Natural Resource Greg Rickford

Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development

Auditor General of Canada


Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca

Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glenn Murray

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro

Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer

                       Commissioner of Environment of Ontario

                        Auditor General of Ontario

Respected First Nation Treaty Leaders in Ontario:

Treaties in Ontario must be respected - the only way for this to occur is through immediate dialogue with government and industry on First Nation jurisdiction through a "treaty" lens.

The derailment that took place this past weekened on Highway 144 north of the Arctic Watershed near Gogama in Treaty #9, south of Matagami First Nation, is by far one of the most glaring screams of neglect and carelessness on the part of the Crown and the rail industry since the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster of July 13th 2013.

As a Treaty leader and citizen of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, I am calling on all Treaty leaders in Ontario and their citizens to consider the following:

  • Support the call for an immediate investigation, and halt, of all rail transportation where obvious systemic safety violations manifest rail disasters and chronic unsafe rail infrastructure;
  • Assert by way of mail, media and messages directly to MP's and MPP's to support Treaty Regions in Ontario and their leadership being recognized at a formal inter-governmental table regarding all federal rail systems history, current activities and policy affecting treaty lands;
  • Advance immediate motions, resolutions, and/or petitions to the Federal Minister of Transportation to implement all of Part IV: Railway Safety Act Administration and Enforcement where it pertains to all derailments;
  • Advance immediate calls to the Transportation Safety Board to implement the full force and effect of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act with respect to all rail safety issues that impose a detrimental impact on all Treaty lands across Ontario;
  • Call on the Federal and Provincial Auditor General and Environment Commissioners to take immediate steps to ensure a "21st Century Recognition of Historical Treaties across the Ontario Region," by carrying out formally recognized processes and using meaningful mechanisms to ensure a full scrutiny of impacts is considered when a derailment occurs on treaty lands. This would include a clear definition of First Nation jurisdiction;
  • Call on the Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario and all other organizations that represent the advocacy of First Nations, to observe and to analyze derailments through the lens of "treaty" lands. And for these organizations to immediately urge Canada, Ontario, regulatory agencies that have oversight of the rail industry, and the rail industry itself, to immediately govern themselves according to the treaties and to formally state by way of written response, their recognition of "Aboriginal and Treaty" rights - at this most critical time in First Nation, Government and Industry relations;
  • Issue written notifications and formal advisements to the Railway Association of Canada, putting its members and executive on notice that a "treaty" lands agenda and lens is a critical discussion that would be in their best interest to accommodate, given the critical rise in concerns regarding safety issues and derailments in treaty regions across Ontario;
  • Demand for the Immediate Resignations of persons responsible for derailments on all regulated railways in our respective treaty lands.

As First Nation treaty leaders, it would be with clear resolve that we call on Canada, Ontario and Canadian National Railway, to act immediately on these actions and to engage all First Nation Treaty leaders to formalize a recognized process to: identifyre-affirm and to modernize a dialogue on treaty obligations as it pertains to the entire rail network and infrastructure system in Ontario.

In total, there are 49,422kms in Canada, and in Ontario there are currently thirteen railways. Of these railways, there are both Class 1 Railways and Short Line Railways that are all subject to safety rules, regulations and laws.

It is strikingly clear that as of this point in Canada's history, the only significant history and tie between railways and treaties is mired in a dark legacy. Remember, this country's first Prime Minister Sir John A Macdonald and his legacy, as written by Laura J. Murray on January 9, 2015 in the Toronto Star: Insight Editorial called "Sir John A MacDonald: Nation builder of Racist?"  

"That famous railroad? Macdonald engaged in rampant graft to get it through. His government starved aboriginal people on the prairies into submission to get it through. His government treated Chinese immigrants like dirt to get it through, and then came up with a head tax so more people of that "semi-barbaric, inferior race" couldn't come to Canada.

Yes, the railroad probably did much to make Canada. It is a major Macdonald legacy. But it is inextricably linked to other Macdonald legacies. The effects of treaties negotiated and implemented during Macdonald's many years in office, his treatment of the Métis, his creation of reserves - these are felt every day across Canada, and continue to demand attention in communities, in political settings and in the courts."

It is time to change a national narrative on treaties in this country - railways must be part of that process; especially in light of the issues surrounding derailments and the impact to LandAir and Water on treaty lands. To its credit, the Ontario government has opened up dialogue on First Nation jurisdiction, treaties and a new working relationship with First Nations in the province. We must see this tragic rail disaster as a clear opening to further define this new dialogue. We must also insist that Canada become part of this dialogue when it comes to federal mandates and responsibilities. To that end - the message to rail companies: "Treaty lands can no longer be a missing part of the rail industry equation. Railway activities must never infringe upon or affect Treaty rights of First Nations - all recourse must be enforced promptly."

As a First Nation leader who's First Nation (Serpent River First Nation - SRFN) and Treaty Region (Robinson Huron Treaty 1850 - RHT1850) have extensive rail systems, both short-line and Class 1 rail systems, traversing our territory, we can not remain silent to the urgent need for this call. We are seeking to establish a collective voice and formal issuance of concern to ensure that a full response is given to the issue of derailments that impact treaty lands and the rights of future generations, as well as the jurisdictions of Treaty First Nations in Ontario.

Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini

Serpent River Anishinabek

Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief