The Hudson Bay Railway and Port of Churchill, along with other assets formerly owned by OmniTrax before their 2018 sale to Fairfax Financial Holdings, AGT Food & Ingredients and a consortium of Northern Manitoba and Nunavut municipalities and First Nations, are now 100 per cent owned by organizations in the region that they serve.
OneNorth, a group of First Nations and other communities in Northern Manitoba and the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, officially assumed ownership of the rail line and port, as well the Churchill marine tank farm, earlier this month when a 50 per cent ownership share held by AGT and Fairfax was transferred to it.
“A tremendous amount of hard work has seen northern communities reach this critical milestone,” said Town of Churchill mayor and OneNorth co-chair Mike Spence in a March 11 press release. “Together with our partners we are taking the next important steps to realize our vision for a national Arctic trade corridor.”
The transfer to local ownership takes place about four years after OmniTrax stopped operating the railway after spring flooding washed out portions ofd the rail line between the Pas and Churchill, which came a year after the then-owner laid off port staff and announced that it would not be shipping anything out of the port that summer. Trains did not run on the rail line for more than a year as OmniTrax refused to make repairs but they were completed with a few months after the new owners took over.
The purchase of the rail line and port was financed by the federal government.
“We are very proud of all that we have accomplished over the past two-and-a-half years with our partner, OneNorth. The long-term economic and social impact of this critical national infrastructure corridor will provide benefits to Canadians for generations. We are grateful to the amazing communities in Northern Manitoba and look forward to watching the continued success of Arctic Gateway. We are proud we were a part of this nation-building project,” said Murad Al-Katib, CEO of AGT, which will continue to provide management services as the company transitions to being completely regionally owned and operated and intends to negotiate a terminal handling agreement to ship grain through Churchill.
“Our communities are ready to step up,” said Opaskwayak Cree Nation chief and OneNorth Co-Chair Christian Sinclair. “We have a multi-generational socioeconomic development vision that will take this work forward as a truly northern Canadian success story.”
The port exported about 233,000 tonnes of product, including seven grain vessels destined for Africa, the Middle East and Europe since the Arctic Gateway Group assumed ownership and there have also been six cargo resupply vessels that departed for Nunavut.
“Communities along the Bayline would like to acknowledge the important role AGT and Fairfax have played to take us through a critical stage in our work,” said War Lake First Nation Chief Betsy Kennedy. “Indigenous ownership will continue to play a key role in the future success and we take these next important steps with our government partners.”