Winnipeg, MB — The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is urging Ottawa not to throw a plan off track that could lead to the fixing of a broken rail line that services Churchill and other northern communities.
Omnitrax, the owner of the line, has released details of a plan to temporarily fix sections of the railway that were washed out by flooding within 30 days.
The Denver-based company said the plan would allow emergency supplies of food and fuel to be shipped to the communities over the winter, but it won’t pay for the repairs.
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau responded by saying Omnitrax as the owner is responsible for fixing the line and will face a lawsuit if it doesn’t take action.
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas says this threat of legal action could jeopardize a plan by a consortium of businesses to purchase the rail line and Churchill’s port facilities.
He says a lawsuit could leave northern communities out in the cold and urged both sides to put the needs of people in the remote region first.
“If the government decides to pursue legal action against Omnitrax, it is forcing the communities serviced by the rail line to become fly-in communities if the line doesn’t get fixed,” Dumas said Wednesday in a release.
“I believe that Omnitrax is also using this as an excuse to not fix the lines, which further punishes our people living along the rail line.”
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents 63 of the 64 First Nations in the province.
On Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who represents Manitoba in the federal cabinet, said rail service to Churchill may not resume until next spring.