News Local

Decrepit old ship still haunting city

Marc Zienkiewicz

The MS Lord Selkirk has been sitting dormant on the Red for about 20 years and council wants it gone before the snow falls.

The MS Lord Selkirk has been sitting dormant on the Red for about 20 years and council wants it gone before the snow falls.

Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson feels like he has a weight on his chest these days.

A 176-foot-long steel ship, to be exact.

Johannson is getting anxious to see the MS Lord Selkirk II finally removed from its resting place at a slough near Selkirk Park, where it’s sat decaying since it was retired in 1986.

“Its become a real stone in my shoe - we want this thing gone,” said Johannson on the afternoon of June 18.

The ship was sold for scrap metal two years ago, and the owners – who are based in New Jersey – have a permit to cut the ship, Johannson told the Journal.

But after promising to get rid of the ship by the end of May, it’s still sitting there.

“I just got a call from Global Scrap and they want to work with us,” said Johannson.

“There is nothing concrete yet.”

The ship, once the pride of the Manitoba cruise ship industry, has become a bane to the city in recent months.

It was set on fire last year, making the rusty old hunk of junk even more unsightly.

The ship has also made headlines after its dark past was brought to light by a sexual abuse victim who reminded the public about the horrific events that took place on the ship years ago when it was docked in Selkirk.

Requesting anonymity, the 50-year-old was one of many young boys sexually abused on the cruise liner during the 1960s and 1970s.

“So much of the media coverage has talked about what a great boat it was. One writer described it as being ‘majestic.’ I want people to know that for me and many others, that boat represents a very dark period of Manitoba’s history,” he told Interlake Publishing in an interview in 2012.

In 2003, Robert George Lemieux, 63, of Goulais River, Ont., was charged with 11 counts of indecent assault and six counts of gross indecency for molesting young boys aboard the ship while it was docked at various locations, including Selkirk.

Lemieux served as a crew member for the Winnipeg-based Paddlewheel riverboat from 1969-1972, before working as the first mate on the MS Lord Selkirk II in 1973 and 1974.

The young boys, ranging in age from 10-14, were enticed aboard the ship by Lemieux with promises of receiving a tour of the famous cruise liner.

The mayor also mentioned working with the provincial government as well as the federal government to have the ship removed as soon as possible. As the boat decays, it’s becoming not only an eyesore, but an environmental hazard, the mayor added.

But Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan told the media this week that it’s the owner’s responsibility to have the ship removed.

By law, the ship can only be forcibly removed if the owners are not known.

—with files from Brook Jones

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