ASSIGINACK—The lawsuit levelled against the Township of Assiginack by the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society for $10 million dollars has been settled, but at considerable cost to the municipal coffers.
As was reported previously, after the municipality entered discussions with the Tobermory Maritime Association for the group to take away the aging passenger ferry to sink as a dive site, the Steamship Society launched a lawsuit claiming that the Norisle was theirs by way of “constructive trust.” The Society also accused Assiginack of breaching a joint venture agreement between the town and the Society, a breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and constructive trust, negligence and damages.
A press release from the municipality states that, “as part of the resolution, the township will make a payment of $45,000, equal to the amount paid by the Steamship Society for the removal of asbestos on the ship, a necessary part of its decommissioning. No other compensation will be made. The ship will not be restored. Negotiations are underway to have it removed as soon as reasonably possible.”
“When you’re sued you have to defend yourself,” said Mayor Paul Moffatt, noting that it cost the municipality $250,000 in lawyers’ fees.
“We’re glad to have it finally settled,” the mayor added, “but I am sorry that this happened and at the cost to the taxpayers.”
“The town gave them (the Steamship Society) every chance they had,” Mayor Moffatt continued. “We were really blindsided by the suit. We had no alternative but to defend the municipality,” he reiterated.
Mike Marcotte, president of the Tobermory Maritime Association, said it will take some time before the regulatory processes are in place, but he hopes to have the Norisle towed to Tobermory next fall.
“We are going to preserve her just outside the Fathom Five Park,” he told The Expositor.
The Norisle will be scuttled in Little Cove Harbour in 120 feet of water, 100 metres from the shore. The area is a 25-minute boat ride from Tobermory. The Norisle will be the Association’s third sunken site outside the Fathom Five Park.
“We’re very thankful to the municipality of Assiginack for giving her to us,” Mr. Marcotte said.
Plans are in the works for a special plaque to be fastened to the Norisle that would share with divers the good works of the Steamship Society and the Friends of the Norisle in keeping her so well maintained.
“We don’t want to damage the ship at all,” Mr. Marcotte assured, explaining that the Association will be speaking with engineers on the best way to sink the Norisle.
“If the ship was to be sent off for scrap, we would much rather it be preserved somewhere,” Mr. Marcotte continued.
Her history connecting Manitoulin with Tobermory before the Chi-Cheemaun came into service in late 1974 makes the vessel a fitting addition to the park’s dive sites, he added, and one they are honoured to have.
Approximately 5,000-6,000 divers come to Tobermory each year, making it Canada’s scubadiving capital and a major economic driver in the area.
A comment from the Steamship Society was not available for press time Monday.