Why this Thunder Bay folk singer brought back his 1979 protest song to speak out against nuclear waste


What’s previous is new once more within the debate round whether or not to retailer nuclear waste in northwestern Ontario. 

In 1979, when Atomic Energy of Canada was consulting on its plan to bury nuclear waste close to Atikokan,  Thunder Bay folk singer Rodney Brown’s gave a five-minute deputation expressing his opposition to the plan. 

That deputation was a efficiency of his new song, Freight Train Derailed.

Now  43 years later, one other course of designed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has whittled doable burial websites down to two communities together with Ignace, a neighborhood of about 1,300 150 kilometres north of Atikokan, and 250 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. 

And Rodney Brown is re-releasing Freight Train Derailed, this time with a brand new music video, to protest the undertaking. 

The plan is for a $23-billion nuclear disposal web site the place the nuclear waste administration group desires to inter some three million spent nuclear gasoline bundles in a sprawling community of tunnels and holes 500 metres beneath the bottom.

The controversial undertaking is nearing the tip of a years-long session undertaking with communities and First Nations about whether or not they’re keen to host the positioning both close to Ignace or South Bruce, close to London, Ont. Organization officers have mentioned they welcome public discourse and debate, whereas promising a secure resolution in keeping with worldwide finest practices. 

People in Ignace are involved in regards to the long-term environmental and well being results of the undertaking, however others be aware that it might deliver back jobs and enterprise within the economically-depressed city. 

Amid that backdrop, Brown felt the time was proper to deliver back his protest song. 

“The nuclear business now, it isn’t the identical sort of panel I noticed in ’79,” Brown mentioned. “Now it is a advertising and marketing firm.”

Rodney Brown protested a plan to bury nuclear waste in Atikokan, Ont., 43 years in the past. He’s doing it once more with an analogous plan, this time in Ignace, Ont., (Submitted by Rodney Brown)

Brown initially wrote Freight Train Derailed for a play. Though the theatre troupe did not find yourself utilizing the song, its theme struck a nerve. Then, simply months after Brown’s deputation, a prepare carrying chlorine gasoline and different chemical compounds derailed in Mississauga. The accident brought on an evacuation that affected 200,000 folks.

The seeming improve in rail accidents was wind within the sails of Thunder Bay’s anti-nuclear motion.

Brown drove from Thunder Bay to Atikokan to reveal against burying the waste within the space. When he arrived, he discovered mass unemployment due to the latest closure of the Steep Rock Iron Mines.

“The Atikokan folks weren’t enthusiastic about [nuclear waste] both,” Brown remembers. “But there have been so many roles misplaced there and everyone was determined. They wanted jobs and I’m positive it is the identical sort of factor now happening in Ignace. Everybody’s cash and jobs.”

Giving an previous song new life 

An previous ally from that motion who now works with the advocacy group Environment North supplied to pay for Brown to shoot a music video so Freight Train Derailed might as soon as once more deliver consideration to the trigger.

 Brown all the time felt the song wanted a 3rd verse so he added lyrics in regards to the Mississauga crash, the Lac-Megantic crude oil prepare explosion in 2013, and the risks of transporting nuclear waste.

The videographer launched him to music engineer Ryan MacDonald, to re-record the song. MacDonald can also be the chief of the Honest Heart Collective, a Thunder Bay-based rock band whose newest songs are charting in Italy.

The pair agreed to mix their bands and re-record the song as an inter-generational collaboration.

Ryan MacDonald, of the Honest Heart Collective, says Rodney Brown was certainly one of his earliest musical heroes. (photograph: Ryan MacDonald/Facebook)

MacDonald would not determine as an activist. He grew up within the Nineteen Nineties when Brown was finest referred to as a youngsters’s performer and MacDonald can nonetheless recite the varsity song that Brown wrote and would carry out when he visited to train music. 

“Rodney was certainly one of — if not the primary — musician who impressed me to play music,” MacDonald says. “It was a giant full-circle moment for me, working within the recording studio that I constructed with my associates within the Honest Heart Collective, to be recording the man that received me into wanting to document music within the first place.”

For Brown, the expertise has opened his eyes to a brand new era that’s making, educating, and recording music in Thunder Bay’s north core. Brown notes how MacDonald is identical age as he was when he wrote Freight Train Derailed.

And whereas Brown marvels at new know-how that has made high quality recording reasonably priced for impartial artists to attain wider audiences, Brown laments that political progress hasn’t turned out to be so linear.

He notes that political activism goes far back in historical past, from the labour motion of the final 150 years, even back to the French Revolution within the 18th century. 

“The older you get the extra you see how issues go in circles,” Brown mentioned. “When I used to be concerned in all this stuff, I believed we had been on new floor, new territory, however we weren’t.”


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