The possibility of a constitutional challenge is being raised over Campobello Island's lack of year-round ferry service.

tp-nb-campobello-council

Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch (back row, left) and Tory MLA Curtis Malloch (back row, right) meet with Campobello's new council in November 2010. The consultant's report will outline options to pursue year-round ferry service, including a constitutional challenge. ((Courtesy of the Government of New Brunswick))

Campobello is a small island in the Bay of Fundy and saw its first council sworn in on Nov. 29, 2010.

The Campobello Ferry Committee asked Opus Consulting to look into the issue of a lack of year-round ferry service to the community.

Canada's constitution includes a section on mobility rights and some on Campobello say it should apply in their case.

A consultant's report expected later this month will outline sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that could apply to the island.

And the report also details possible opportunities for a constitutional challenge to get permanent ferry access to the island.

The existing private ferry service between Campobello Island and Deer Island operates for about three months from late June to mid-September.

During the off-season, if Campobello residents want to get to mainland New Brunswick they have to take the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge at Lubec, Maine, and drive about 150 kilometres round trip to get to St. Stephen.

The travelling alone takes about two hours, but they also have to cross the Canada-U.S. border four times — at both Lubec and St. Stephen each way — where they can face long waits.

An American businessman is considering a year-round ferry system to link New Brunswick's Deer and Campobello Islands with the Maine communities of Eastport and Lubec.

As well the former Liberal government committed $20,000 to study the feasibility of year-round ferry service to Campobellow in March 2010.

Court case sought

Kathleen Case, who is involved with the island's ferry committee, said mobility issues make it difficult to make a living on the island.

nb-campobello-ferry

The existing private Campobello ferry only runs from late June to mid-September. ((CBC))

"We have an extremely high rate of unemployment, [in the]

last census it was 18.4 per cent," Case said.

"We're losing our population at a fairly incredible rate as well."

Case said she'll be pushing the new council to follow through on a legal challenge to get the ferry service.

"We will encourage them to pursue the matter, to pursue the constitutional argument," Case said.

"We're going to suggest that they join with the other Atlantic Canadian mayors who are pursuing the argument that the ferry's actually an extension of the highway service."

But a lawyer with a background in constitutional issues, consulted by CBC News, said the charter's mobility clause is aimed at travel between provinces and Campobello residents want to reach another part of New Brunswick.

But there may be a case on another section of the charter that could apply to the Campobello situation.

The constitution also provides the right of an accused to a speedy trial.

But people on Campobello with criminal records cannot travel through the United States, and must often wait months for the restoration of the summer ferry service just to attend court on the mainland.

Corrections

  • The Campobello Ferry Committee hired Opus Consulting to perform the the ferry study. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of the story.
    Oct 13, 2013 2:50 AM AT