MICHAEL’S BAY—The list of items from the former Royal Michael’s Bay Resort going under the auctioneer’s hammer of Norm Morrell on Saturday, May 19 at 10 am is so extensive that it might even include the odd kitchen sink. But the event isn’t happening on the property.
“Because it is federal property and they don’t want the liability, we have to hold the auction somewhere else,” confirmed Mr. Morrell. “We managed to secure the Providence Bay Arena for the sale and everything has to be moved to that site for the auction.”
The movement of chattels is apparently taking place under the watchful gaze of the RCMP.
Longtime readers of The Expositor will recall that the Royal Michael’s Bay Resort was seized by the Government of Canada, acting on behalf of the Belgian government who deemed the property to have been purchased with the proceeds of crime—to wit the laundering of money gained through the sale of bovine growth hormones outlawed in the European Union (as well as Canada).
The property has been in limbo since the 2009 seizure and has been the subject of at least one lawsuit by a developer seeking to reclaim the property, to no avail.
In its heyday in the mid-1880s Michael’s Bay was an active going concern, complete with lumber port, two stores, boarding houses, a hotel, taverns, a bakery, blacksmith shop, school and around 15 frame homes.
The town plot was laid down in 1879 and production levels at its mills were soon flourishing. A shingle factory and sawmill were producing 3,500 board foot of wood and some 20,000 shingles per day. There was even a 23-mile road constructed linking the community to Manitowaning, reducing travel time in that horse and buggy day to a speedy three-and-a-half hours.
But once its mill closed, there was nothing left to sustain what was once the Island’s largest non-Native community—a town that numbered a year-round population of 150 and a seasonal population reaching upwards of 400 souls. By 1900 only a handful of residents remained, and its post office, established in 1872, was finally shuttered in 1916 providing the final nail—Michael’s Bay officially became a ghost town.
Rumours have been swirling about the Island that the Michael’s Bay property has been sold. In one version of the rumours that sale was to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), while another version asserts with authority that the purchaser is Wiikwemkoong. Those rumours assert that the sale is slated to close a week following the auction.
“That’s definitely news to me,” laughed Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier when asked whether his community is buying the property. “We have certainly expressed an interest in the property, but so far we have not heard anything about where things stand.”
Inquiries to Public Works Canada, the government agency tasked with administering the property following its seizure and transfer to the federal government, remained unfulfilled as of press time on Monday. So the INAC transfer rumour remains in play, albeit soundly unconfirmed.