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Indigenous people meeting at a drum circle.

Missanabie Cree First Nation and other First Nations communities along the Algoma Central rail line are unable to access their traditional territories without a passenger train. Ceremonies and various cultural events take place on these lands and are an important part of First Nations culture.

Chief Gauthier smiling and holding a copy of the Bear Train business case booklet.

The cancellation of the Algoma passenger train took away the only transportation into significant parts of Indigenous traditional territories, including some areas that are very important spiritually and culturally.  The restoration of passenger train service by the Missanabie Cree-run Bear Train would allow regional First nations to follow through on plans to create Indigenous tourism economic development initiatives in the rail corridor.

Jason Gauthier
Chief, Missanabie Cree First Nation

Forrest Hinich holding a pack of outdoor supplies.

“My name is Forrest Hinich. I am 30 years old and grew up in Wabos Ontario, a community located on the ACR railway. Up until the passenger train service was halted in 2015, my friends, family and I would travel on the passenger train from Searchmont to our camp at Achigan Lake. We utilized the train year-round as it was the best way to access the remote area. We would enjoy trips to the Agawa Canyon to canoe and hike, and sometimes trips to Hearst to experience the life and culture of our northern communities. Once the passenger service shut down, the communities, camps and businesses settled on the rail line became inaccessible, including access to the Sand River and other canoe routes. The loss of the passenger train greatly impacted tourism in the area. Myself and many others eagerly await the return of the passenger train service!”

– Forrest Hinich

Outdoors enthusiasts unloading canoes and camping supplies from the passenger train.

The passenger train service has always provided great access to wilderness areas, camps and lodges where tourists and locals alike can take part in outdoor recreational activities. These range from fishing and hunting, rock and ice climbing or hiking, to canoeing and kayaking.

James Smedley sitting in a boat holding a fish.

It has long been known that the Algoma Central Railway cuts through a wilderness landscape that is arguably one of the most beautiful in the world. At a time when more and more people are searching for all manner of outdoor recreation the need for passenger rail service has never been greater. Whether we are paddlers, campers, hikers, anglers, artists, hunters or photographers, the absence of a dynamic passenger rail service along this established route is a real waste of potential.”

James Smedley

Searchmont Train Station.

Tourists from Ontario, from across Canada and from overseas are looking for more unique destinations to visit. The ACR Corridor is such a place with not only Indigenous territories, vast forests and interesting wildlife, but also many fascinating sites where the Group of Seven painters chose to create some of their most famous paintings. Without a passenger train, many of these sites are not accessible. It is a great loss to our region’s economy, especially considering the level of interest in heritage sites throughout the world.

Hiker in the woods leaning against a rock and drinking from a canteen.

Within four years of the completion of the Algoma Central Railway from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, members of Canada’s iconic Group of Seven began a series of annual painting trips along the rail corridor. Their paintings of Algoma proved to be a watershed moment in the evolution of Canadian art, leaving an enduring legacy to future generations. That legacy, and the landscape that was so germane to it, has such rich educational and tourist potential, but that potential can only be realized if the unique access provided by the passenger train is restored to its rightful place in Canadian history.”

Michael Burtch
Artist, Art Historian, retired Director/Curator of the Art Gallery of Algoma

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