The provincial government recently announced about $6 million in funding for 3,170 kilometres of winter roads to Moosonee and 31 remote First Nation communities for the 2020-2021 winter season.
“This funding can also be used to support special projects, which includes bridge improvements, maintenance of crossings and repairs,” says Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. “We know that the Ministry of Energy, Northern
Development and Mines (ENDM) has confirmed that they are able to provide a three per cent increase in base funding across the board this year for winter roads.”
Fox says the provincial government investment does not address checkpoints needed to control access on the winter roads during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We encourage our communities to identify funding needs for winter road checkpoints to Indigenous Services Canada and (ENDM) as soon as possible,” Fox says. “NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) encourages winter road travel be restricted to essential services and workers and commercial shipments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’ve been working with leadership to address concerns and considerations related to developing the winter road network during this pandemic, and of course this includes security, public health guidance, but the communities will need to establish protocols for winter road access.”
The investment is part of a three-year funding commitment to promote economic stability and make it easier for remote communities to bring in essential goods and services, such as food and medical and construction supplies.
“Winter roads are a lifeline for remote communities, as they provide vital connections to all-season roads,” says Greg Rickford, minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and minister of Indigenous Affairs. “By providing multi-year funding, our government is reducing the administrative burden, supporting economic development and enabling our northern communities to plan more effectively for upcoming winter roads seasons.”
The winter road funding ranges from $589,443 for the Kimesskanamenow LP winter road from Moosonee to Attawapiskat via Fort Albany and Kashechewan to $18,918 for the Temagami winter road from the Temagami Access Road to Bear Island.
The provincial government recently released a draft transportation plan for northern Ontario that outlines more than 60 actions to expand highways and transit services, create northern economic opportunities, keep people safe and provide reliable travel options for remote and First Nation communities.
The draft transportation plan is posted online at: www.ontario.ca/page/connecting-north-draft-transportation-plan-northern-....
“Over the years at chiefs meetings and community visits you will hear people talk about the need for all-season roads development,” Fox says. “You have Wataynikaneyap in the west and you have the Ring of Fire discussions. That’s the topic of the day most times is development and all-season roads. That’s the issue for debate in many of our communities. At this point we don’t have any (all-season roads) besides North Caribou Lake.”
Fox says there are pros and cons with the development of all-season roads to the communities.
“You can access cities like Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout, but you open up the north,” Fox says. “I’ve heard of that in North Caribou Lake, you have hunters coming right up to the community lines. There’s benefits but you’re saying yes to people coming in close, you’re saying yes to possible development, you’re opening up the north and that’s why it’s such a hot topic for debate.”