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Ottawa files lawsuit in dispute over broken northern Manitoba rail line

Ottawa files lawsuit in dispute over broken northern Manitoba rail line
From CTV - November 14, 2017

Ottawa filed a lawsuit against the owners of a broken rail line in northern Manitoba on Tuesday, hours after the company said it would file a complaint against the federal government under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The legal salvos are the latest in a battle over the damaged track that is the only land link to Churchill, a town of 900 on the western coast of Hudson Bay.

And hopefully the last legal volley of the day. A Statement of Claim...Canada sues OmniTRAX for $18,800,316.62 for damaged rail. @CTVNews

Jill Macyshon (@JillMacyshonCTV) November 14, 2017

The community has experienced rocketing food and fuel costs since being cut off.

The federal lawsuit alleges Denver-based Omnitrax has failed to repair and maintain the rail line in violation of a 2008 agreement that saw the company receive $18.8 million in federal aid for maintenance and upgrades. The lawsuit seeks repayment of the money.

"The defendants ... continue to refuse to repair the rail line and restore its operations, effectively leaving the remote northern town of Churchill, Manitoba -- and its citizens -- without the railway services which they depend on to bring essential goods and services to their remote community, where no roads go," the government's statement of claim reads.

Severe flooding damaged the rail line last spring. Omnitrax has said it cannot afford the estimated $43 million in repairs, and has been trying to transfer ownership of the rail line to a consortium of northern communities -- a move that would require government aid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the summer that Omnitrax was legally obligated to fix the line and he would not rule out legal action.

The legal papers filed by Omnitrax earlier Tuesday are a formal notice of its intent to file a complaint under NAFTA that alleges unfair treatment by Ottawa.

Jill Macyshon (@JillMacyshonCTV) November 14, 2017

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