Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 05, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Restored Churchill rail and port hailed as “good news,” but may not offer many benefits to Nunavut

Kivalliq Inuit Association has no stake in the project—at least not yet

SARAH ROGERS
The federal government announced last week that two groups representing Indigenous and northern communities, One North and Missinippi Rail LP, have teamed up with Fairfax Financial Holdings to purchase the Churchill port and rail line. But the KIA said it's not a part of the deal for the time being. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CHURCHILL PORT)
The federal government announced last week that two groups representing Indigenous and northern communities, One North and Missinippi Rail LP, have teamed up with Fairfax Financial Holdings to purchase the Churchill port and rail line. But the KIA said it's not a part of the deal for the time being. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CHURCHILL PORT)

Kivalliq leaders are welcoming a tentative deal that would see multiple partners purchase Churchill’s port and rail line to restore transport infrastructure to the northern Manitoba community and Hudson Bay.

The federal government announced last week that two groups representing First Nations and northern communities, One North and Missinippi Rail LP, have teamed up with Fairfax Financial Holdings to purchase the port and rail from American firm Omnitrax Inc., which has owned the infrastructure since the late 1990s.

The railway is the only land transportation into Churchill, located 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg on the western shore of Hudson Bay.

But despite the port’s location just 300 km south of Arviat, Nunavut leaders also say the deal doesn’t offer many benefits to the territory, nor does Nunavut have a stake in the project—at least not for now.

Despite media reports which suggested all seven Kivalliq communities were involved in the deal, the Kivalliq Inuit Association says that’s not the case.

“Nothing has been brought to the KIA,” said its executive director, Gabriel Karlik. “We’re aware of [the deal] but we’re still waiting to hear back from the group.”

The group Karlik is referring to is One North, a partner in the new deal. While the KIA is in discussion with the group, the Inuit association has not signed onto the project for the time being.

Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut’s Arviat-based minister of economic development and transportation, said Kivalliq leaders have drafted letters of support in the past for the re-establishment of the port and rail line.

“I guess people from the Kivalliq who buy cars and other vehicles will have the option again [to ship though Manitoba],” he said.

“But in terms of government and big business, most of the shipping to the region comes through Montreal now.”

Savikataaq said the costs associated with the transfer of goods from Winnipeg to rail and then to sealift drove up shipping costs.

“Even before the rail line went down, government and big business were changing their shipping habits to Montreal, because it was cheaper,” he said. “And I can’t see that changing any time soon.”

In a member’s statement to the legislative assembly June 1, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main called the new deal “good news.”

“As a Kivallirmiut, who sits north of this area of the country, I’m encouraged to hear that the federal government is indeed interested in investing in the North,” Main said in his statement.

But Main said he’s equally frustrated that the federal government doesn’t see the case for investing in Nunavut’s infrastructure, noting that the Kivalliq’s winter road proposal was recently rejected financing from the National Trades Corridors Fund.

“I very much look forward to the day when the federal government is announcing infrastructure deals, whether they’re private or whether it is public funds involved, that do involve Nunavut and the Kivalliq region,” he said.

Later June 1, Main asked Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa directly if he had any updates on other major infrastructure projects the Kivalliq region wishes to pursue to connect with its southern border at Manitoba, like the roadway or a hydroelectric line.

Quassa said he’s had no correspondence on those projects since he became premier last November, though he noted an upcoming meeting with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

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(10) Comments:

#1. Posted by pissed off on June 05, 2018

Just why would anybody invest money in the infrastructure in Churchill unless it is for military or sovereignty purpose?

Or to service the Keewatin?????

The days of shipping grain from that port ar long over and not likely to return.

Somebody know something!!

Outfits like Fairfax do not put a dollar into anything that is not likely a sure shot.

Just watch.

Thanks

#2. Posted by Ours not yours on June 05, 2018

Will the Rail and port be on Inuit owned land after the land swap is completed?

#3. Posted by Chesley on June 06, 2018

The north country is growing and developing fast, its a good news to have the rail to Churchill maintained, it is a smart investment/project.

#4. Posted by Esquimo on June 06, 2018

Once again, Kivalliq Inuit Association is caught sleeping, blind to opportunities.  This routing has potential growth and benefit is planned right with shipping companies and mining companies, the local cooperatives and northern stores.  I wish 1 day the KIA will learn to take on challenges instead just standing pat.

#5. Posted by reader on June 06, 2018

an Inuk owned co. or an Iunuit owned org should start a shipping co. with a base in Churchill which would serve the western Nunavut and beyond. Now may be time to move. before another co starts the business. I think it would cut down the the shipping industry used by and for Inuit.

#6. Posted by eskimo joe on June 06, 2018

once again kia is caught sleeping (4) to join into what can (could be) be productive venture. nothing pro-active with this org. there were chances to jump into the fire with royalties from the mine(s) in this region. kia execs, get away from this self-importance absorbance and get to work. why do we keep putting ppl into positions they cannot handle nor have any foresight? there must be at least one or two kivallimiut who have the savvy to run this three ring circus at their big tent in ri.

#7. Posted by Ours not yours on June 06, 2018

Regardless of how you put it, it’ll cost more to have everything shipped through Churchill. Would you invest into something knowing you will be losing money? As a beneficiary of the land claims agreement, I would not want my royalty money wasted on that.
Where KIA might look to make money in this would be a land lease. It’ll be really interesting to see where these new Inuit Owned Land parcels lay in the Manitoba boarder.

#8. Posted by JOHN ELL on June 06, 2018

#4 You hit the nail on the head!!!  I hope they wake up today.

#9. Posted by Esquimo on June 06, 2018

#7 Ours not yours , way off.  I have had vehicles of the same size shipped via Churchill and via QC.  Churchill was cheaper by almost 2k even with cost of living increasing.  Look, if the feds are walking away or, have been trying to walk away from it, there is potential.  Local Dene an the Inuit in Kivalliq need to process this properly for it to succeed.

#10. Posted by pissed off on June 06, 2018

The proof was made years ago that it was cheaper, not to say more efficient, to ship from Montreal with modern ships and privately owned companies that know where their revenues come from. Let`s not start again with another Crown corporation or Inuit org that will have its hand out on the first day asking various Governments for subsidies.
The port had its heyday when grain was shipped from there.
And guess what it was done at a great cost to the Canadian taxpayers in the form of subsidies.
THanks

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