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THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs have declared a State of Emergency as unseasonably warm winter threatens the viability of the seasonal winter road network, a vital transportation link for the majority of NAN’s 49 member First Nations.
“The winter road season should be well underway, but temperatures remain unseasonably warm, making them extremely dangerous and unsafe to use. This poses severe safety risks to community members and commercial drivers who are risking their lives for necessary travel,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Our communities rely on these roads for delivering essential goods and our leaders are understandably concerned. We will begin discussions with our federal and provincial Treaty partners immediately to ensure that sufficient freight and road repair subsidies are provided to NAN communities so air transport can be arranged as quickly as possible.”
Endorsed by Chiefs-in-Assembly meeting in Thunder Bay this week, the Declaration calls on Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development (MND), Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), and Indigenous Affairs Ontario (IAO) “to immediately facilitate the required subsidies to the affected NAN First Nations for fuel and essential non-perishable goods.”
30 remote NAN communities depend on the winter road season to receive essential goods such as fuel, equipment, non-perishable goods, and construction materials for upcoming community housing and infrastructure projects. NAN also represents road access communities that maintain roads in need of critical and urgent repairs.
In Ontario, winter road funding is a 50/50 funding partnership between Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development (MND).
First Nations people are feeling the impacts of climate change disproportionately. In urban centres, it means less snow and a warmer winter. In NAN First Nations, it threatens our very way of life.
Ice thickness has been a major issue all season. The winter road network requires more ice capping to thicken the water crossings to be able to handle heavy fuel loads and large shipments. Nightly temperatures must drop significantly for ice capping to be effective. A lack of snow has made it more difficult to pack down smaller creeks where there is no permanent water crossing or culvert.
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