Festival du Voyageur defends itself against walkway collapse lawsuit, denies negligence claim

Festival du Voyageur says it is not legally responsible for the injuries of a boy who fell when an elevated walkway collapsed during a school field trip earlier this year. The boy's parents are suing the organization and the City of Winnipeg for damages.

Parents of boy who was injured launched suit against festival, city in August

A damaged wooden structure is shown. It appears to have collapsed internally.
An adult and 17 children were injured and taken to hospital when an elevated walkway at Fort Gibraltar collapsed during a school field trip in May. One of the children's parents has filed a lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg, which owns the site, and Festival du Voyageur. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Festival du Voyageur says it is not legally responsible for the injuries of a boy who fell when an elevated walkway collapsed during a school field trip earlier this year, after the boy's parents launched a lawsuit against the organization and the City of Winnipeg.

In a lawsuit filed in August, the boy's parents alleged that their son is "at risk of permanent disability" after falling roughly five metres and fracturing his hip and right wrist at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg's St. Boniface area. The fall happened when a walkway at the replica wooden fort collapsed, sending 17 children and one adult to hospital.

The lawsuit accuses the city and Festival du Voyageur of negligence, "failing to remediate a hazardous condition and thereby creating a highly dangerous trap" and "failing to take reasonable or any precautions to avoid a reasonably foreseeable accident."

Festival du Voyageur, which manages the city-owned site, has since filed a statement of defence, denying that it created a dangerous hazard or that it knew or ought to have known that the walkway was unsafe. 

"No act or omission of the festival was the cause of any legally compensable loss or damage suffered by the plaintiff," the statement of defence says. 

Further, the organization says if the boy did suffer any loss or damage, "then such loss or damage was the result of the actions of other parties for whom the Festival is not legally responsible." 

The statement of defence also says Festival du Voyageur took "reasonable care and effort" to ensure the fort was safe for visitors.

"Any duty of care that the Festival may have owed to the plaintiff was satisfied, and it took reasonable care within its role in the use of the Fort for the safety of those attending at the Fort." 

Fort Gibraltar is a 1978 replica of two earlier forts of the same name. The original fort was used as a centre for fur trade commerce and early settlers in what's now Winnipeg. 

The site where the replica was built is now owned by the city and managed by Festival du Voyageur, which runs an annual winter event at the fort that celebrates the area's fur-trade history.

The walkway collapsed while a group of 10- and 11-year-old students from St. John's-Ravenscourt School were on a field trip to the site in May. 

After the walkway collapsed, the city said it directed the Festival du Voyageur to retain a professional engineer to assess the entire complex for any unsafe conditions and do any necessary repairs. The reason for the structure's collapse was not confirmed.

A spokesperson for City of Winnipeg said the city plans to file its own statement of defence against the lawsuit in the coming days. 

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been tested in court. 


Sarah Petz


Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. She was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. Her career has taken her across three provinces and includes a stint in East Africa. She can be reached at or @sarahrosepetz on Twitter.