A new bridge constructed in Ontario's far north means year-round road access to one First Nation community, who has had to rely on unstable seasonal roads for basic transportation needs.

Leadership and members of North Caribou Lake First Nation (also known as Weagamow or Round Lake), and officials with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Wa-Pik-Che-Wanoog Bridge on Tuesday. The structure crosses the Weagamow Lake narrows.

"Our Elders have asked for the Wa-Pik-Che-Wanoog Bridge for years because they have witnessed the effects of climate change in our territory and knew how it would influence life in our community," North Caribou Lake Chief Dinah Kanate was quoted as saying in a written release issued by NAN.

"The winter roads can be dangerous, and two pieces of heavy equipment have gone through the ice while trying to maintain them."

Wa-Pik-Che-Wanoog Bridge

The $5.1 million bridge project began back in the mid-2000s. (Mike Mckay / Nishnawbe Aski Nation)

The bridge will connect the community, located about 900 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, to Ontario's highway system via an industrial road, known as the Northern Ontario Resource Trail, or the North Road, that runs north of Pickle Lake. In NAN's written release, Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the "vital" transportation link will also help ease the high cost of living in the remote north.

The $5.1 million project was funded by the federal government.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. 32 of them are remote and are accessible only by air and seasonal roads.

"With a changing environment, commercial traffic on winter roads has been open for as few as 28 days in recent years; a significant reduction from 77 days a decade ago," NAN's release stated. "This forces communities to rely on air delivery for supplies at significantly increased costs."