By Lorene Keitch
The town of Golden is looking to bypass CP Rail (CPR) in order to access the Kicking Horse River.
This decision comes after more than a year of negotiations with the rail company to allow rafters to access the famed Lower Canyon. CPR is not budging on its demand to have liability covered. Golden took a proactive approach to the impasse, hiring a company to investigate access both through the CPR territory as well as from other points.
CPR is almost as old as Canada itself. Founded in 1881, it was created to link Canadas populated east with the relatively unpopulated west. B.C. joined the confederation with the promise of a transcontinental railway.
For a century, CPR was master of the masses. Goods to be shipped, people to be moved the rail was king. Unfortunately, that superiority complex seems to have skewed CPRs view of what is important. While safety needs to be paramount, there needs to be flexibility on CPRs behalf.
What is discouraging is to see how little CPR is willing to bend in order to allow citizens access to our own resources. Make no mistake; the Kicking Horse River is only one of hundreds of illegal crossings across the country. Maybe the federal government will need to force CPRs hands to accommodate user groups such as Goldens rafting companies, which has a track record of zero incidents in 40 years of crossing the tracks.
A bill was recently introduced in the House of Commons by a Montreal MP that would grant the Minister of Transport the powers to require construction of level crossings on rail lines on a case-by-case basis. Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski backed the bill, citing that if rail companies are concerned about safety, the solution is not to ban crossings but to instead make them safe.
The battle over the Kicking Horse River could be a turning point for Canadians vs. CPR. While it is great that Golden is investigating alternatives, it would be even better if this became a precedent-setting case for the rights of Canadians to reach our rightfully owned natural resources. If CPR wins this battle, they will continue to hold the keys to our natural resources captive.