Details of new Labrador ferry bag check policy still being worked out: minister

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is looking for a solution to bag checks on the new Labrador ferry that balances passenger rights with safety, the transportation minister said Monday.

The government has spoken with the Nunatsiavut government and is awaiting a conversation with the Innu Nation, Steve Crocker said. There have also been discussions with Labrador Marine, which operates the ferry service to coastal Labrador.

"We want to make sure that the proper consultations are had with both of these groups on the north coast, as this affects the north coast," he said.

Earlier this month, the provincial government told Labrador Marine to stop dockside searches of the baggage for passengers of the Kamutik W. The ferry's captain, with the backing of the company, had prohibited alcohol consumption on board after a series of violent incidents, Peter Woodward, CEO of the Woodward Group of Companies, told CBC News at the time.

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans said earlier this month that the searches amounted to unequal treatment of the primarily Indigenous passengers of the coastal ferry service, compared with other intraprovincial routes. Woodward said at the time that the increased security came after incidents that affected safety, and that they were applied to all Kamutik W passengers equally. 

There have been issues on the boat this summer, said Crocker, some of which he said he heard about from the Nunatsiavut government. His priority, he added, is finding a solution that works for all involved parties.

"We certainly don't want to invade anybody's privacy or anybody's charter rights, but we also want to make sure that passengers on these vessels are safe," he said.

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The goal of the consultations, which he said began just over a week ago, is to find a less-invasive way to apply needed security measures while keeping safety first in mind, Crocker said.

"The last thing we want to see is an incident on one of these boats, where there's a tragedy because somebody has an accident that caused an injury, or worse."

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