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Supplies from cancelled barge to be flown to Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., though details are scarce

Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie apologized to residents of Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., after Marine Transportation Services cancelled the barge last week. She said the department is developing a contingency plan, though few details are so far available.

Minister apologizes to Sachs Harbour residents, but can't yet say when community will get supplies

An N.W.T. Marine Transportation Services barge was cancelled from its resupply delivery to Sachs Harbour due to high winds. (NTCL)

The N.W.T.'s infrastructure minister says a contingency plan is underway to resupply Sachs Harbour, but there aren't very many details available yet.

The soon-to-be plan follows a cancelled barge that never made it to the N.W.T.'s northern-most community due to high winds. As a result of the cancelled barge, fuel, food and other goods will be flown into the community.

Minister Diane Archie said she didn't yet know when that will happen, how many aircraft will be needed or when more details will become available. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said department doesn't yet know how much the new plan will cost.

Archie said staff from Marine Transportation Services (MTS) — owned by the territorial government and operated by the Department of Infrastructure — are travelling into Paulatuk on Friday to begin the process of moving supplies to Sachs Harbour. 

Communication staff for the minister said in an email that the department is "in close contact with [senior administrative officers]" in both hamlets.

Once in the community and meeting with leaders, Archie said the department will have a better sense of next steps. 

She said the department's priority is getting supplies into the community. Then, it will look at how to avoid future cancellations of scheduled community resupplies. 

Following MTS's community visit this week, leaders from communities in the Nunakput riding will meet in Yellowknife. That's another opportunity to consult on the plan, Archie said. 

Archie couldn't say whether it would take weeks or months for the cargo to be flown into the community.

"I can't really say right now without knowing more of the details," she said. "Once we get staff into the community to assess the size and the amount of cargo there, then we'd be able to have a better sense of how long it would take."

N.W.T. Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie apologized to residents of Sachs Harbour, after Marine Transportation Services cancelled the barge last week. She said the department is developing a contingency plan, though few details are so far available. (Travis Burke/CBC)

In an exchange during Tuesday's sitting of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson asked Archie if the department would reimburse residents who had to pay out-of-pocket for supplies they were expecting on the barge. 

Archie responded that she "can't commit right now."

"We are taking responsibility for the goods that are affected by the barge [not] going in. So we are looking after those. To the extent of what [that] means and how much that would cost, that's still underway," she said during Tuesday's session. 

Archie also apologized to businesses and residents in Sachs Harbour "who had to endure this."

"This is not something that we want," she said. "There were weather factors that came into play ... Again, I sincerely want to apologize." 

The territorial government acquired MTS in 2016 after its predecessor, Northern Transportation Company Limited, filed for bankruptcy.   

This isn't the first time MTS has failed to make it to communities.

In 2018, cancelled barges meant resupplies didn't arrive on time to Paulatuk or the Nunavut communities of Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.

Many questions, few answers, resident says

Joey Carpenter, 76, is a resident of Sachs Harbour. 

He said there are a lot of questions circulating in the community that "have to be answered."

Carpenter said he's heard concerns about the condition of the goods when they do arrive in the community, including canned goods and food coming into the local Co-op grocery store. 

He said those who can afford it ordered food and other supplies from other community stores.   

Having lived most of his life in Sachs Harbour, Carpenter said he's seen the barge arrive in worse weather. 

Despite the circumstances, Carpenter said community members are helping each other as best they can.

"When things get tough, everybody pulls together," he said. 

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to clarify details of the infrastructure department's trip to Paulatuk.
    Oct 20, 2022 10:01 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. Reach her at: natalie.pressman@cbc.ca.

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