7th District Mi’gmaq Territory, Listuguj, Qc.
Listuguj Idle No More (INM) supporters now remain adamant on blocking all railway traffic pending the outcome of the January 11 meeting between Aboriginal leaders and the Harper government. The decision was made hours after their Monday afternoon meeting with Listuguj Chief and Council and visiting key regional representatives.
Both governmental and municipal stakeholders along the Gaspé region travelled to Listuguj in hopes to appeal freight train passage, citing concerns over their municipal economies.
“The fact is the railway belongs to the municipalities of the Gaspé. There is a serious impact with the lack of federal funding. They have a serious issue with being able to get the federal government to pull it’s weight when it comes to supporting the railway and other files as well. In particular they want to underline that there’s a lot of jobs that are on the line that this railway supports and he has a particular preoccupation with making sure that those jobs and that industry on the railway can continue.” Said NDP Member of Parliament for Gaspésie–Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Mr. Phillip Toone, translating on behalf of Mr. Bertrand Berger, Président of Conférence Régionale des Élu(e)s Gaspésie–Iles-de-la-Madeleine.
Mr. Francois Roussy, President of Société de chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (The Gaspé Railway Company) represented the four Regional County Municipalities: Avignon, Bonaventure, Le Rocher-Percé, and La Cote-de-Gaspé. The SCFG president went as far as suggesting VIA Rail passenger trains should be blocked instead of the regions freight trains. The premise expressed was that of no effect on putting pressure on the federal government in terms of blocking the Gaspé regions freight trains. Freight trains that are owned and operated by the SCFG’s 325 km railway that runs between Matapedia to Gaspé have a lot more to lose regionally in terms of revenue for the four regional county municipalities. These municipalities benefit from the use of the Gaspé Railway Company.
In the position expressed by the SCFG’s President on their business relation with Temrex, a leading producer of softwood in the Gaspé, further denial of passage hurts Temrex.
“Temrex is a business that is going to be affected by the protests that are being held right now. And our intentions is to find a solution that will help unblock that but at the same time allow continued protest and in no way stop the justified protest.” Said MP Mr. Phillip Toone, translating on behalf of Mr. Francois Roussy.
The Quebec government representative, Mr. Gaétan Leliévre, Parti Québécois (PQ), Minister responsible for the Gaspésie–Iles-de-la-Madeleine, as an act of good faith asked if there is any other way to help present their ideas in another fashion. One that perhaps benefits everybody that unifies a way of protesting.
Incumbent Chief Dean Vicaire stated that the struggle to provide meaningful employment for the people of Listuguj is not only difficult but is also reliant on government to government relationships that can help provide that employment. He directed his message to Mr. Gaétan Leliévre,
“Two things we’ve been really pushing and working on is first our Wind Farm, it’s a hundred and fifty mega-watt wind farm that the Mi’mgaq of the Gaspésie, Gespeg, Gesgapegiag and Listuguj, are ready. We are more than ready and you know that. It’s just a matter of the Minister putting pen to paper and we can participate on that.” Chief Vicaire said.
The main industry concerns being affected along the 325 km shortline railway was a topic that consumed the majority of the meeting on Monday. At best, the INM grassroots voice at the table appeared to be overshadowed by concerns of Regional representatives and that of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government. No amount of resolution would be achieved in the amount of time allocated for that day’s meeting, but the message was clear. The Harper government continues to hurt the people of this region and Bill C-45, if anything, forces the local people here to look to each other as ally’s. How this would be achieved depends solely on the amount of leverage each one can bring to the discussion table.
Alex Morrison, spokesperson for the INM supporters of Listuguj, directed his attention to Mr. Francois Roussy, President of Société de chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (The Gaspé Railway Company).
“You want us to help Temrex but what does Temrex do for our community? Those are our trees that you are cutting in our territory. We made treaties a long time ago that you guys signed with your ancestors and our ancestors. The Temrex you are talking about is being fed by our resources on our territory.” Said Morrison.
Temrex plays a major role in the transfer of wood chips and lumber shipped from the four regional county municipalities and the INM supporters blockade of the railway in Listuguj is having a real impact, not on Temrex, but on the regional municipalities that own the railway along the Gaspésie. If the option to ship is restricted by train, Temrex can simply ship by transport trailers to their destination plants in Riviere-du-Loup and Gatineau, but at an additional cost.
“Only Temrex is using the train, at this time. In the summer it is different,” says Temrex general manager, Harold Berube during an interview following Monday’s meeting.
“Using the train to ship our chips is the most [affordable] than by truck,” he stated.
When asked whether Temrex arrived here in Listuguj for the meeting to help in the settlement of the issue with the Idle No More railway blockade, the answer was both “Yes,” and, “No.”
“At this time we’ve had a real difficult period for Temrex too, we’ve lost a lot of money. We’ve lost $12 million dollars in the last year and a half.” Said Mr. Berube.
Temrex sells their wood directly to White Birch paper plant. A company that was the second-largest newsprint manufacturer in North America before filing for bankruptcy protection in February 2010.
With files from CBC/Montreal