Ontario First Nation asks federal government to replace aging ferry

OTTAWA -- An Ontario aboriginal community on an island in the southeastern portion of Georgian Bay is in danger of losing its only link to the outside world -- an aging ferry the chief of the Beausoleil First Nation says is on the verge of sinking.

See Full Article

Beausoleil, about 5,400 hectares of Ojibwa territory, is located primarily on Christian Island.

The picturesque First Nation -- widely considered to be one of the real-life backdrops in "The Orenda," the critically acclaimed novel by author Joseph Boyden --is dependent on the ferry, which makes its hour-long round trip to the island and back 14 times a day, seven days a week.

The service is the community's lifeline, according to its chief Roland Monague, because it's the only way to access the mainland.

"Our people have to cross day to day to get access to all the goods and services as well as hospitals, medical appointments," he said.

Beausoleil First Nation is not alone in its accessibility struggle -- the federal government is facing great pressure from a number of First Nations, many of them in remote locations, that are struggling to address crumbling infrastructure.

Optimism is growing, however, among First Nations communities across Canada -- along with a competing list of demands -- now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to reform Canada's relationship with Aboriginal Peoples.

The federal response on the Beausoleil ferry issue will help determine whether that commitment carries weight, Monague said.

"They promised to have a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations," he said. "So tell me -- if this is not approved, what is our nation-to nation relationship?"

Federal funding for infrastructure in communities will facilitate economic development and increase access to health services and education, according to Ontario Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Isadore Day.

Many reserves have inferior water systems, if they have water systems at all, and rely on winter roads because they do not have access to all-season roads, Day said. It's difficult to determine needs without a complete economic assessment, he added.

Beausoleil's 65-year-old vessel -- the M.V. Sandy Graham -- was purchased by the government in 1998 as an interim measure to transport passengers and vehicles.

It is no longer safe and a replacement is urgently needed, Monague said.

"They have a fiduciary responsibility to us as First Nations for health and safety," he said. "Without a proper, safe, viable transportation for the community, we are going to be in a predicament soon."

Peggy Smith, an associate professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., said the new Liberal government will need to look at collaborating with communities instead of reaching conclusions from "on high."

"What's wrong with the way that we are making decisions about infrastructure in First Nations? ... It is about the decision-making model," she said, noting investments shouldn't always be looked at "as a sink."

Much of Canada is struggling with infrastructure, Smith added, but she said First Nations remain even further behind.

"We've got this failing infrastructure at all levels and how the government is going to figure out what is priority and what is not, I have no idea."

Beausoleil's ferry has been a long-standing issue -- it was slated for replacement when the federal Liberals were last in power, but the plan was dry-docked by the former Conservative government in 2007.

Replacing it is expected to cost $30 million, said Monague, who made a personal pitch to Finance Minister Bill Morneau during meetings last month with the AFN. Morneau's office would not comment on the request.

"If the government can't commit, then we have to strategize and do this on our own," Monague said. "I, in good conscience, can't continue to sail this ferry knowing that tragedy could happen out on that water."


Latest Canada & World News

  • The Pirate Party could sail to victory in Iceland, poll shows

    World News CBC News
    The past few years have been stormy for Iceland, a country threatened by volcanoes and brought low by bankers. Now, Icelanders are thinking of putting their trust in pirates. Polls suggest the party — formed in 2012 by a group of anarchists, hackers and internet-freedom activists — is supported by as many as one in five voters and could emerge from Saturday's parliamentary election at the head of a new government. Source
  • Man charged with child abduction heading back to Calgary for bail hearing

    Canada News CTV News
    Calgary police are expected to be in Ontario on Friday, to retrieve a 49-year-old man charged with abducting six children and bringing them to the Toronto area. Durham police found the children with their mother’s common-law partner in a parking lot in Bowmanville on Thursday. Source
  • Worked to death: why some stressful jobs may send you to an early grave

    World News CBC News
    It can be very frustrating to be in a high-demand job where your boss allows you little control, and a new study suggests such constant stress might even shorten your life. "We found that individuals in highly stressful jobs with little control die at a younger age than workers who have more control in their jobs," said study lead author Erik Gonzalez-Mule. Source
  • Uber drivers are employees — not freelancers, British tribunal rules

    World News CBC News
    Uber has faced many legal challenges in markets from a number of opponents. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters) Britain's more than 40,000 Uber drivers are entitled to sick days, vacation and other benefits, a labour tribunal said in a ruling the ride-hailing company says it will appeal. Source
  • Whisky captures flavour of smoke from Fort McMurray fire

    Canada News CTV News
    A distiller is working on the perfect drink to celebrate Fort McMurray’s road to recovery: a whisky made from barley flavoured by the fire’s smoke. The Wood Buffalo Brewing Company is hosting a launch party for its specially crafted “The Beast” whisky on Friday, Oct. Source
  • Morneau says he has followed all federal rules governing fundraising

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO - Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he has abided by all the rules to ensure he has not violated any regulations governing lobbying and conflict of interest. Morneau was asked today about allegations that lobbyists have been involved in Liberal fundraisers featuring cabinet ministers, including himself. Source
  • IS using hostages as 'human shields' in Mosul

    World News CTV News
    QAYARA AIR BASE, Iraq -- The Islamic State group appears to be using tens of thousands of people as "human shields" in and around Mosul, where Iraqi forces are waging a large-scale offensive aimed at retaking the country's second largest city, the UN human rights office said Friday. Source
  • Local investors outnumber foreign buyers 10-1 in Toronto's condo market

    Canada News CBC News
    Concerns about foreign investors snapping up real estate have dominated headlines recently, but a new report suggests domestic investors outnumber foreign buyers in the Greater Toronto Area's new condo market ten-to-one. Toronto condo research firm Urbanation says foreign buyers, whose primary residence is outside of Canada, made up only five per cent of the sales of new units in condo buildings that were under development between July and September. Source
  • WADA cites near collapse of anti-doping program at Rio Games

    World News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The World Anti-Doping Agency has detailed serious failings of doping control management at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, saying the system was only saved from collapsing by the "enormous resourcefulness and goodwill" of some key staff. Source
  • Upstart Pirate Party senses victory in Iceland elections

    World News CTV News
    REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- The past few years have been stormy for Iceland, a country threatened by volcanoes and brought low by bankers. Now, Icelanders are thinking of putting their trust in pirates. The Pirate Party, an anti-authoritarian band of buccaneers that wants to shift power from government to people, is one of the front-runners in an election triggered by financial scandal in a country still recovering from economic catastrophe in 2008. Source