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Fears persist over the future of the S.S. Keewatin

August 2021

One hundred people gathered in front of the S.S. Keewatin in Port McNicoll on 28 August, to show support for keeping the retired 114-year-old Edwardian-era passenger steamship in the Ontario community where it was based during most of its 57-year operational life. The rally was organized by Keep Keewatin Home, a community action group.

Attendance was restricted due to Chinese Communist Party Virus (COVID-19) protocols, otherwise there would have been many, many more in attendance.

More than 13,000 people have signed a petition to keep the S.S. Keewatin in Port McNicoll, where it has been docked and serving as a museum ship since 2012. The ship’s owner, Skyline Investments, has stated that it wants to sell the ship, in whole to the Great Lakes Marine Museum in Kingston, or in pieces as scrap. Skyline had previously stated their intentions to incorporate it into their development plans on the Port McNicoll waterfront, as a historical attraction, but these plans have since been abandoned.

Friends of the Keewatin, the volunteer group and registered charity that has spent the past nine years carefully restoring the old ship and giving guided tours from May to October each year, needless to say, feel betrayed by this reversal. Organizers of the rally are hoping this will send a strong message to the S.S. Keewatin’s owners and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

“We want to send a powerful message today to…the federal government, the minister of Canadian heritage, and also Skyline Investments who owns the ship and wish to move it, that the community stands behind us,” Dan Travers, campaign chair with Keep Keewatin Home, stated to the gathered supporters.

The ship was initially kept closed to tours in 2020, due COVID-19 restrictions, but in June 2020, Skyline Developments erected fencing around the ship, preventing volunteers from accessing her to perform routine maintenance. The fence remains in place today.

Featuring speakers at the rally included Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton, Friends of Keewatin curator Fred Addis and 93-year-old Maurice Wilkinson, who served as a crew member aboard Keewatin from 1944-1948.

Sources: Dozens rally to keep S.S. Keewatin in Port McNicoll – ToysMatrix, ‘Keep it here. Keep it home’: Rally to preserve 114-year-old Ontario steamship S.S. Keewatin | CTV News, Rally to keep Keewatin in Port a ‘huge success’ (7 photos) – Midland News (midlandtoday.ca), Friends of Keewatin finds financial backer in fight to keep ship in Port McNicoll (simcoe.com).

Also read: S.S. Keewatin – A jewel from the glory days of Great Lakes passenger travel – Canadian Military History (militarybruce.com)

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/fears-persist-over-the-future-of-the-s-s-keewatin/

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