The Canada Infrastructure Bank and the Quebec government have invested $55 million in repayable loans in the Tshiuetin railway system. The goal is to modernize the infrastructure, build new stations, and purchase new rail cars.
The Tshiuetin is a railway that runs from Sept-Îles, on Quebec's North Shore, through Labrador, and to Schefferville, 530 kilometres away, transporting both passengers and merchandise.
It is also the only way residents of Schefferville can reach the rest of the province by land.
Tshiuetin is owned and operated by the Innu Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach and the Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam.
Noah Swappie, chief of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, says he's happy this investment is finally happening, because the train is in desperate need of repairs.
"Over many many years we've faced many difficult challenges with our rail[way] because it's falling apart," he said. "This is something really positive that we've been waiting to happen."
Part of the investment will include the cost of bringing the railway through Maliotenam, the Innu community just east of Sept-Îles, and building a station there, which will allow people to get on and off the train closer to home, instead of having to take a taxi nearly 15 kilometres into town.
Chief Réal McKenzie, of the Innu Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, says the announcement is just the start.
He says the train is an essential service, there will always be a need for it, and there will always be improvements to make.
Canada Infrastructure Bank CEO Ehren Cory says the funds show not only a willingness to invest in infrastructure benefiting Indigenous people, but also a desire for more inclusive economic development.
"This partnership with Tshiuetin is exactly the kind of collaboration we want to establish with Indigenous communities," he said.
He said workers will be able to travel more efficiently, stimulating job growth and business opportunities, and the modernized rail system will be more environmentally friendly.