Squamish Nation hires lawyer in longstanding CN Rail dispute

At wits end over trains

The Squamish Nation community is “at its wit’s end” with ongoing disruptions from rail operations just metres from their homes, and council is ready to pursue legal action if changes aren’t made soon.

The council has been trying since fall to negotiate with CN to adjust its operations. With three rail tracks just 30 metres from some homes, residents say they have been putting up with unacceptable levels of noise, pollution, and health impacts from idling trains for far too long.

Spokesperson Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, said the issue had affected the communities now for “many, many years” and council reopened negotiations in October 2020, in the hope that immediate short-term changes would be made.

Council presented a survey of 300 community members’ concerns to CN Rail in March, which included specific feedback regarding shunting, whistling, and idling late into the night, and early in the morning.

Residents have described the noise from trains as being 10 times that of a muscle car revving up and powerful enough to rattle the windows of nearby homes.

"Despite our attempts in good faith to meet with them and to bring our issues forward and to try and solve them, CN has not been responsive nor communicative to our requests and any commitments they’ve offered to make,” Khelsilem said.

The First Nation has now sought the legal council of JFK Law Corp. to move its fight further.

Khelsilem said taking legal action wasn’t the route the council wanted to go down but the situation had escalated to a point where something needed to be done.

“CN hasn't taken our concerns seriously up to this point,” he said. “It's a breakdown in the relationship and, frankly, CN is showing the highest levels of disrespect to Indigenous peoples with their actions.”

While CN Rail has progressed on various initiatives over the past several years to reduce noise, such as rail lubrication and installing automated gates at at-grade crossings, Khelsilem said more changes were needed.

In response to previous complaints, CN issued a statement saying the whistles are required by law for safety reasons and that idling is necessary for almost half of its fleet of locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off.

“CN is aware of the fact that it operates in close proximity to the communities through which we travel and is committed to make every effort to minimize the effects that may occur as a result of these operations," the statement read.

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