CN sued by Mattagami First Nation over oil spills

As reported in Timmins Today, the Mattagami First Nation, a northern Ontario Indigenous community, is suing CN Rail for alleged environmental and cultural damage caused by two 2015 derailments that led to significant oil spills.

The Mattagami First Nation alleges in its statement of claim that the spills near Gogama, Ont., damaged the local environment and surrounding waterways.

The $30 million suit alleges that the damage, in turn, has created health risks for the population and crippled community members’ ability to observe their Indigenous traditions including fishing, hunting and gathering.

It says the two oil spills, which took place in February and March 2015, collectively poured millions of litres of oil into the area around Gogama, which is about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury, Ont.

Transportation Safety Board inspectors assess the site and the damaged cars in the train derailment near Gogama, Ont. (TSB)

CN declined to comment on the filing, adding it is committed to cleaning up environmental damage caused by the derailments.

Mattagami’s allegations have not been proven in court.

The First Nation claimed the 2015 spills impacted many facets of life for community members.

“Mattagami First Nation members have suffered stress, distress, anxiety and worry as a result of the contamination of the land, waters, plants and animals on which they rely,” reads the First Nation’s statement of claim, which was filed in March but served to CN on Monday.

The suit alleges negligence from CN and claims the rail company breached its standard of care when conducting operations ranging from track maintenance to staff training. It also alleges CN has created a corporate culture that valued speed over safety.

Alberta Proposing to allow Cities to Tax Vacant Brownfields

The Alberta Government recently released proposed changes to the Alberta Municipal Act that, if enacted, would allow for municipalities to tax vacant non-residential property at a higher rate than occupied properties.  The proposal is viewed as a means to spur the development of brownfield properties.

As reported in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton city council is behind the proposal, citing concerns that empty commercial buildings bring down a neighbourhood.  Municipal councillors in Calgary are split on the proposal.

Evan Woolley, a Calgary Councillor, was quoted in the Calgary Sun saying, “I have no interest in raising a new tax on property that can’t be developed. We already know how much property is vacant downtown and raising taxes will only make things worse.”

Calgary Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell disagrees with his colleague, arguing that raising taxes on business owners who are bringing down the property values for the rest of the community can be an effective way to encourage them to either use the land, or sell it to someone who will.  “We see contaminated sites in high profiles areas, particularly with old gas stations. There’s no incentive to develop it and if it was taxed on highest and best use that would encourage the owner to actually make the most out of it instead of keeping it there as an eyesore,” said Farrell in the Calgary Sun.

Farrell emphasizes that even if the province gives the city power, they won’t necessarily use it, but it’ll be another tool the city can access if they want.

The province hopes to have the amendments come into force prior to October’s municipal election.

The abandoned Eamon’s Camp land in Calgary, Alberta on January 12, 2012. (Photo Credit: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald)