First Nations, Private Company, Say Churchill Rail Line Deal in the Works

First Nations, Private Company, Say Churchill Rail Line Deal in the Works

The Canadian Press

Churchill Flooding
A portion of the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill, Man., is shown in this 2017 handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-OmniTrax)

CHURCHILL, Man. – A group of Manitoba First Nations says it has formed a partnership with a private company that will lead to the reopening of the rail line to Churchill.

The First Nations say the deal involves an acquisition agreement with the U.S.-based owner of the Hudson Bay Railway, the Port of Churchill and other assets.

Indigenous leaders say the railway and port are crucial to the existence of all First Nations in northern Manitoba.

The rail line owned by Denver-based Omnitrax was washed out by floods last spring.

A company called iChurchill Inc. says it hopes to conclude the agreement by mid-June so that the rail line can be repaired before the fall.

The news release issued by the First Nations and iChurchill Thursday night does not mention Omnitrax by name.

“A consortium of Manitoba First Nations, led by Chief Glenn Hudson, and in partnership with iChurchill Inc., a private Canadian company, has entered into an acquisition agreement with the U.S.-based owner of the Hudson Bay Railway, the Port of Churchill and associated assets,” the release reads.

“We are proud to have formed this historic partnership and are excited to be working together with the First Nations to restore rail service to Churchill and build a successful business that protects the sustainability of these vital assets well into the future,” said Louis Dufresne, president of iChurchill.

The town of 900 people on Hudson Bay has been struggling after losing its only land connection to the south.

Omnitrax has said it will not repair the track because it would cost too much money on an already money-losing line.

That has meant goods and people have had to rely on very costly air transportation.

Last fall the federal government filed a lawsuit naming Omnitrax over the need to repair the rail line.

CP - The Canadian Press

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