by, Gisele Winton Sarvis
Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) has signed a contract for the construction of a new ferry with Fraser Shipyards from Superior, Wisc., at a cost of $18.8 million.
The custom-built ferry will be approximately 50 metres in length and 18 metres wide. It will carry up to 150 passengers and 36 vehicles, with a roll-on, roll-off feature.
The projected delivery date is June 21, 2021, National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“On that day, I want to see that boat come around the corner here and pull into the harbour,” said Beausoleil First Nation Chief Guy Monague.
BFN has been in negotiations with the government for about 20 years to get the new ferry.
Senior ferry captain Aaron Sunday has been working the ferries for the last 40 years.
“It’s been a long time coming. This one was only supposed to last eight to 10 years, and it’s been over 15 years now. The people here need reliable transportation,” he said from the wheelhouse of the 69-year-old MV Sandy Graham.
The BFN council made it a priority to get the ferry when elected in 2018.
“We got advocacy support from the national level. (Simcoe North MP) Bruce Stanton was always there to help push in the background,” said Monague.
“What really pushed it was our members. We flooded (the Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs) with letters from members and cottagers.”
In December 2018, Monague got a call from Indigenous Services Canada saying it had $10 million available.
“I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I didn’t want to wait anymore. I didn’t want to keep pushing for $18.9 million because I knew the past councils weren’t able to do that. It was too much of a challenge to get that full amount,” he said.
BFN council, deciding to manage the financing, pulled $4 million from a trust fund.
“Now we are going to pressure the federal government for additional dollars,” said Monague.
Funding for the ferry services is a federal government responsibility, he noted. BFN is also looking for support from the provincial government.
“The last thing we are looking at is our own revenue,” he said. “We have other priorities.”
BFN funds about 20 services including housing and post-secondary education for its members.
The tender went out in May, and five proposals were received before July 31 for review by the ferry committee.
Monague said he “felt bad” going with a U.S. firm, but said Fraser’s proposal came in first by a long shot. Heddle Shipyards, which does work on the Sandy Graham, came in second.
BFN hired E.Y.E. Marine Consultants of Nova Scotia to manage the project. Project manager Tony Thompson said the ferry will be an icebreaker to allow year-round operation in most conditions.
“The ferry will incorporate diesel electric propulsion, which will make the ferry hybrid ready to incorporate battery electric technology,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A correction was made to this article on Jan. 8, 2020. The price of the ferry at $18.8 million is in Canadian funds, not U.S. funds.