Regional district frustrated with CN response to grievances

‘A lot of our concerns are still not being heard,’: Houston mayor Shane Brienen

Questions around rail safety, firefighter safety, cleanup near the rail yards and tracks, whistle cessation, etc were raised during the RDBN meeting with CN. (File photo)

Questions around rail safety, firefighter safety, cleanup near the rail yards and tracks, whistle cessation, etc were raised during the RDBN meeting with CN. (File photo)

The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) is very concerned about a number of issues regarding CN Rail ranging from safety due to transportation of hazardous goods to rail yard cleanup.

In a board meeting earlier this month, the RDBN aired its grievances with CN representatives with the way CN has been dealing with all the issues. CN dangerous goods officer John Nicoletti and Public Affairs person Tyler Banick gave a presentation of CN’s work in the area. When they opened up the floor to take questions, however, it became clear there weren’t any solutions to local problems.

Whistle cessation and rail crossings

In a September meeting of the board, a delegation of Wayne Whittemore and residents of Electoral Area “A” spoke about the issues they were facing with CN’s whistles at all hours. From noise disturbances to serious health impact and disruption of quality of life, the group requested the Smithers rural district, with a petition signed by 334 residents asking the railway to find a way to make whistle cessation possible at Lake Kathlyn East, Lake Kathlyn West and Slack Road. The board has since been in consultation with CN over this.

Problems around unguarded rail crossings leading to accidents and blocked rail crossings were also discussed. The board also received a letter from Dave and Verna Hopper of Electoral Area “B” (Burns Lake Rural) regarding blocked driveways for up to 3-4 hours in the location of a double siding. The Hoppers, who live in the Tintagel area south of Hwy 16, 10.5 kilometres east of Burns Lake, have been facing CN rail blocking access to their home, for years. On Sept. 9, the crossing was blocked for seven hours, leaving them stranded.

The CN delegates said that at crossings, CN is regulated by Transport Canada and under those regulations, at a public crossing a standing train shouldn’t block the crossing for more than 5 minutes if there is traffic present. However, private crossings were not included in the regulations.

They also asked the board to inform the community that CN required specific information to identify why a train is across a public or private crossing for long periods of time and that people should call the CN public inquiry line with information around date, time and mileage point.

Transporting dangerous goods

A major issue for the district has been the transportation of unknown, dangerous goods through the rail corridor. The regional district had also received a letter from the Friends of Morice Bulkley, outlining the dangers of carrying hazardous petroleum and unknown substances and how this transportation is on a rise.

Currently, there are as many as 15 trains travelling through the corridor every day and in the future, that number could go up to 30 trains a day according to the CN delegates.

The directors discussed how in case of an accident, or a derailment, when local firefighters aren’t aware of what is in the containers, it becomes dangerous for them to operate. Board chair Gerry Thiessen even pointed out that these firefighters, who were volunteers, were risking their lives to deal with CN’s goods and have a right to know what they would be dealing with to prepare for the worst case scenario.

In response to this, Nicoletti and Banick said the company had resources located along the rail corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert and a fire response trailer in Terrace and a response trailer in Prince Rupert. They added CN would work on communication with the local fire chiefs, but said that rail safety was a “shared responsibility.”


By the end of the meeting, there were more questions than answers. Questions around cleanup near the rail yards and tracks, about vacant lands near the railway properties, about whether CN would ever consider revitalizing the line north of Fort St. James, were raised. However, the delegation wasn’t able to give any satisfactory solutions or answers to any of the questions raised during the meeting.

“A lot of our concerns are still not being heard,” said District of Houston Mayor Shane Brienen during the following RDBN meeting. As a board, we are able to usually make headway with some groups, but with CN we are still not getting anywhere.”

Brienen also suggested putting together a larger group by coordinating with other groups, districts to bring all the issues in front of CN collectively.

Village of Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk agreed with this and also expressed her frustration with the meeting.

“They sit down with us and take up all our time and tell us that we don’t actually have a problem because they have put in place all these solutions,” she said and expressed how those solutions weren’t actually solving anything.

In a recent village council meeting, it was decided that the Burns Lake council would be sitting down with CN in the upcoming days.

“I just want a meeting where we can sit down and I can tell them my actual problems and they can give me actual solutions with ways they are going to fix it, and fix it right away,” she said.

“I think we need to have a very large coordinated approach because we all have the same problems and so do all the other regional districts and so if we can coordinate that, that would be very beneficial,” added Funk, agreeing with Brienen.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

(BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro planned power outages to darken downtown Smithers for most of day Sunday, Jan 17

Replacement of poles will affect approximately 250 customers in downtown core from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Smithers Local Health Area reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 Jan. 3 - 9. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 25 in Smithers LHA Jan. 3 – 9

Northern Health reported 49 new daily cases for 497 active, 44 hospitalized, 13 in critical care

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read