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Ferry held hostage until First Nation's problems addressed





The ferry that ships essential goods, such as fuel and water treatment chemicals, to York Factory First Nation is being held hostage by a neighbouring community, Chief Leroy Constant says.

On Friday, Constant said Tataskweyak Cree Nation is not allowing the M.V. Joe Keeper to set sail because of ongoing disputes with the provincial and federal governments, and York Factory is running out of supplies due to the conflict.

York Factory’s ferry usually docks in the middle of Tataskweyak, which is located on the northern shore of Split Lake. York Factory is set up on the south shore of the lake, some 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The community of about 500 people is only accessible by winter roads half the year and, as of June, can only be arrived at by ferry or plane.

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The ferry that ships essential goods, such as fuel and water treatment chemicals, to York Factory First Nation is being held hostage by a neighbouring community, Chief Leroy Constant says.

On Friday, Constant said Tataskweyak Cree Nation is not allowing the M.V. Joe Keeper to set sail because of ongoing disputes with the provincial and federal governments, and York Factory is running out of supplies due to the conflict.

York Factory’s ferry usually docks in the middle of Tataskweyak, which is located on the northern shore of Split Lake. York Factory is set up on the south shore of the lake, some 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The community of about 500 people is only accessible by winter roads half the year and, as of June, can only be arrived at by ferry or plane.

"(Tataskweyak) has a boil-water advisory in place right now, and there’s a whole list of issues that they want addressed. Another one being that the ferry is situated in their First Nation, and they want a commitment from the province to move it," Constant said in an interview Friday afternoon.

The York Factory chief said Tataskweyak Cree Nation wants a commitment in writing from the province to find a new place to dock the ferry.

It also wants Indigenous Services Canada to step up with help getting clean water and other resources.

Tataskweyak Chief Doreen Spence couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday evening. Federal government spokespeople were also not immediately available to comment.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said talks with the northern First Nations are underway.

"Discussions remain ongoing between the province and the affected Indigenous communities, and we will have further comment in due course as these negotiations continue," the spokesperson wrote by email late Friday.

Constant said his community was notified Thursday the ferry — and its supplies — wouldn’t be budging.

"We feel that it’s leverage for them to get what they want with the province, because our ferry is situated in their First Nation, right in the middle. They’re looking at it as leverage, holding us hostage for their needs," he said.

Without the ferry moving goods, two infrastructure projects — a school expansion and water treatment plant upgrades — are in jeopardy, the chief said. The community is also low on fuel right now and down to its last barrel of water treatment chemicals, Constant said.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @_jessbu


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