Member Profile | Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, Inc.
TSHIEUTIN: A strong north wind blows…
Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, Inc. is a Railway Association of Canada member that is making history with every trip. Created by the First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Matimekush-Lac John and Kawawachikamach, Tshiuetin is the first railway in Canada to be entirely Indigenous-owned. Tshiuetin offers critical rail services between Sept-Îles, Québec, Emeril Junction, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Schefferville, Québec. James Berubé is the Director of Operations for Tshiuetin.
RAC: James – Tell us about the name Tshiuetin and how it reflects the company’s approach to business.
James: The name means north wind. And I can tell you, in winter months especially, it’s apt. Our climate conditions are incredibly harsh, creating interesting operating challenges.
And when we launched our operations back in December 2005, you got the sense that there were winds of change blowing.
RAC: How connected is Tshiuetin to the communities it serves?
James: We are very connected to the community. There are no roads reaching Schefferville, making us an essential service and lifeline for many. We deliver people and goods such as food, supplies, medicine, and everything else you can think of to support the livelihood of the communities.
We therefore proudly offer stable and unique rail career opportunities directly to our community members. Indirectly, having a direct impact on mining transportation, we add even more employment opportunities for our local communities.
We are also the only means of transporting for Tata Steel’s iron ore and the various mining equipment to and from Emeril Jct. and Schefferville.
RAC: What are the main differences between how Tshiuetin and other companies operate?
James: From a technical aspect, we respect all the same rules, regulations, and standards as any other company of our size.
I mentioned the climate in the terrain we operate in – that’s a big factor as any company that operates in remote, northern areas would likely agree. Our trouble-shooting strategies and winter planning activities are unique.
Otherwise, it’s language and culture. We live and work with our customers. It’s a vital relationship.
RAC: Describe for us a trip to Schefferville on one of your trains.
James: A typical trip starts with a 0700 departure from Sept-Îles.
Our trips are through some very pristine territory. The trip starts off following the Moise river and then leads into flat lands surrounded by lakes and then into the beginning of tundra near Schefferville. It’s beautiful land with lots of history.
A lot of our passengers are heading up to work in the mines, others for adventure travel and to their traditional hunting and trapping grounds. Most of our passengers are returning home to family after vacations down south.
People get on and off where they need to. Depending on the time of year, they’ll be greeted with people on skidoos and taken off to their final destination.
And, like any long-haul trip, our employees try to make people feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible, however long their journey is.
It is a vibrant yet very welcoming atmosphere.
And the process repeats itself for the return heading south the next day with a 0800 departure from Schefferville.
RAC: When you tell your friends and family about your work, the work the company does, what do you tell them?
James: I tell them of the pride and sense of accomplishment that we as a company feel in constantly building, striving to improve, and operating our company, and that Tshiuetin Railway Transportation’s mission is to offer to its clients and employees a high quality, safe, and reliable rail service.
That’s really what it is all about: getting people to and from safely and enjoyably as possible.
We strive to create great experiences that others will tell their friends about. And I feel we are very good at it.
RAC: To what degree is its Indigenous ownership a point of pride for the company and its employees?
James: It’s a critical point and sense of pride for everyone involved. That this is a company for and by Indigenous peoples, First Nations, makes us all very proud.
I am a Naskapi from the community of Kawawachikamach, who are one-third owners of Tshiuetin. I take great pride in the fact that we have well trained and qualified First Nations employees in all departments of our company which include Locomotive Engineers, Conductors, Track Inspectors, Railway Traffic Controllers, Administrative and all other necessary and equally important jobs associated with ensuring that our Railway runs efficiently and securely.
I think we are the forefront of Indigenous participation and empowerment, and I hope we see more examples of this not only within our industry but across sectors as well.
Tshiuetin was the subject of an acclaimed short film (11 minutes) of the same name. You can watch it https://vimeo.com/376556334.