Michael’s Bay townsite still in limbo

TEHKUMMAH––The Michael’s Bay Historical Society has been working towards conserving and protecting the historical site for future generations for many years, and it has been a process society members have frequently found frustrating as they wend their way through successive layers of bureaucracy in dealing with Parks Canada, Ontario Parks and a number of owners and managers of the property which owns the historic townsite.

Michael’s Bay holds a particular place of privilege in the hearts of many Manitoulin residents, as many a Haweater can trace his/her lineage back to a resident of the lumbering community that was once the Island’s largest and most bustling community.

“There are a number of graveyards, at least three that we know of, in the old townsite,” said Doug Tracy

The 690-acre Michael’s Bay property has had a chequered existence in recent years. Seized as part of the proceeds of crime during an investigation into a bovine steroid trafficking operation in Europe, the property’s Belgian owner has since been released from custody, but the property remains locked in the Canadian legal system.

A note from Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC) media relations spokesperson Melanie Quesnel confirmed that her agency is responsible for the Michael’s Bay property. “Within the purview of the Seized Property Management Act, PWGSC has the mandate to manage properties seized or restrained, such as the one on Manitoulin Island,” said the note. “The said property is managed by PWGSC in accordance with a restraint order issued by the court. The case is currently under appeal.”

With the property seized, but under appeal, there is no definitive authority with whom to negotiate any plan for the community, and meanwhile, the gravesites at Michael’s Bay are falling further into decline.

“The property owner is supposed to be responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery,” said Mr. Tracy. “But who is that right now?”

Until the appeal process has been completed, the issue will likely remain in limbo.

Michael Erskine