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First Indigenous owned and operated railway in Canada to be modernised

Posted: 19 July 2021 | | No comments yet

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is to invest in Tshiuetin Rail, alongside the Government of Canada and Government of Quebec.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), Transport Canada (TC) and the Government of Quebec, have announced a partnership to provide an investment package to Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc. and Tshiuetin LP (collectively, Tshiuetin) to modernise the first Indigenous owned and operated railway in Canada.

The modernisation project will contribute to the economic growth of communities in the Northeastern Quebec and Western Labrador railway corridor.

The CIB will invest $50 million in the form of a long-term, fully repayable loan. The Government of Quebec will invest $5 million, repayable over the next two years. Transport Canada, which has supported Tshiuetin since 2005, has renewed its commitment to the company for the next three years under its Remote Passenger Rail Program, increasing its total annual subsidies of at least $12 million per year for operating and capital expenditures.  

The modernisation project will contribute to the economic growth of communities in the Northeastern Quebec and Western Labrador railway corridor. The agreement will contribute to the sustainability of businesses and infrastructure of strategic importance to access the territory while preserving the environment.

The railway is a lifeline for the communities along the corridor. The freight and passenger service is the only readily accessible link connecting three First Nations – the Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, the Innu Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach – between Schefferville and Sept-Îles.

Modernisation

The partnership includes significant track structure improvements, the upgrade of an existing worker lodging camp and the construction of a new one, as well as the construction of a new train station. 

The project also involves the acquisition of new fuel-efficient locomotive and new passenger cars which will enhance users’ comfort. 

The new trains will also be equipped with communication technology which will ultimately allow on-board internet access. Passengers will be able to stay connected to their work and loved ones while travelling.

The new trains will be safer thanks to an improved control system. The internet connection will allow instructions to be transmitted directly to the operations centre.   

Benefits

The partnership includes significant track structure improvements, the upgrade of an existing worker lodging camp and the construction of a new one, as well as the construction of a new train station. 

Communities along the corridor, including the First Nations communities, will benefit from enhanced mobility. The upgraded service will stimulate employment and economic growth. Modernised freight services will increase the capacity and efficiency of goods transportation, creating new business opportunities.

The project will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through shorter travel times and more fuel-efficient trains. First Nations members will continue to benefit from rail access to their traditional hunting grounds.

A first for the CIB

This is the first investment under the CIB’s Indigenous Community Infrastructure Initiative (ICII). Through the ICII, launched in March 2021, the CIB has a target to invest $1 billion in infrastructure projects developed in partnership with and for the benefit of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. 

This project also represents the CIB’s first investment in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

One part of the Northern Action Plan

The investment by the Government of Quebec is in response to an objective of its Northern Action Plan 2020-2023 (NAP 20-23), which was launched in December 2020 and aims, among other things, to ensure multi-user access to the Labrador Trough. The Government of Quebec will invest $778.6 million, or more than half of the amount planned for NAP 20-23, to support businesses and citizens established and active north of the 49th parallel. The Société du Plan Nord coordinates the implementation of this government plan.

Industry responses

Ehren Cory, CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, said: “The Canada Infrastructure Bank’s partnership with the Government of Quebec and the community of Tshiuetin to support the Tshiuetin Railway project is a great example of a strong partnership with Indigenous Peoples and marks the CIB’s first investment through the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Initiative. This railway serves as a lifeline to communities along the corridor and funding to modernise the line will help residents travel safely and efficiently while allowing for better transportation of essential goods, creating jobs, reducing emissions, and fostering local economic growth.”

Communities along the corridor, including the First Nations communities, will benefit from enhanced mobility.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said: “There is a significant infrastructure gap facing Indigenous communities across Canada and this important funding is the perfect example of how the Canada Infrastructure Bank can work in partnership with Indigenous communities to provide them with safe infrastructure and to improve their quality of life. The Innus Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-utenam, Innu Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, and Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach communities will be better connected by an improved and modern railway while also creating jobs at a time when we need them the most.”

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, said: “Through our contribution under the renewed Remote Passenger Rail Program, the goal is to ensure passenger rail service is maintained for Indigenous and remote communities located in Northeastern Quebec and Western Labrador. This passenger rail service represents an important lifeline to access health care, education and employment opportunities for isolated Indigenous communities.”

The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, said: “As stated in the Quebec government’s Northern Action Plan 2020-2023 (NAP 20-23), we are committed to facilitating access to the Northern Territory. With the NAP 20-23, we are ensuring the actions implemented meet the needs of the communities and tackle the issues specific to each region, such as the North Shore. Tshiuetin Rail Transportation is the only company that offers rail transportation between Schefferville and Sept-Iles. Its presence is crucial to local communities, including First Nations, and our support will help ensure its continuity.”

The upgraded service will stimulate employment and economic growth.

Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Minister Responsible for the Côte-Nord Region and the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, Government of Quebec, said: “Tshiuetin Rail Transportation shows how the community is taking ownership of its economic development. It is also a great example of cooperation between the Innu and Naskapi communities in the North. To inhabit our North and bring it to life, as outlined in the Northern Action Plan, we will continue to support initiatives coming from the territory and its communities.”

Ian Lafrenière, Minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs, Government of Quebec, said: “I am thrilled to announce the advancement of several new projects for modernisation of our operations, which represent Tshiuetin Rail Transportation’s commitment to strengthening economic collaboration and fostering mutually beneficial relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. With the financing and financial assistance from our partners announced today, we will expand our capacity to deliver on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly services to our passengers and customers, while boosting our local economy through the creation of business and employment opportunities in the North.”

The project will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through shorter travel times and more fuel-efficient trains.

Tanis Peterson, Director General and Chief Operation Officer, Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, said: “For the communities living in the northern regions, the Tshiuetin railway line is at the heart of the economic development. Not only does it allow the communities and businesses it serves to maintain a regular land link between them, conducive to the transportation of people, goods and merchandise, but it also ensures and perpetuates a lasting presence of the Innu and Naskapi on Nitassinan. By investing in Indigenous infrastructure such as Tshiuetin Rail, all users of the territory will benefit from a modern, reliable and efficient transportation system.”

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