Ice roads, access for First Nations debated in House of Commons
NDP MP says mild weather has made ice roads, which bring supplies to northern First Nations, unsafe
The mild winter and climate change are creating long term problems for northern First Nations, Member of Parliament Georgina Joilibois says.
The New Democratic Party MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River spoke in the House of Commons Wednesday about the mild winter's impact on ice roads.
"Wollaston Lake, a northern Saskatchewan community of 1,800 people, is running out of fuel and food. Mild weather has made the ice road across Wollaston Lake unsafe, so there is no way to get supplies," Joilibois said.
"The chief and council of Hatchet Lake First Nation warn they may have to close their school and health centre thanks to the shortage."
She asked what the government will do to "help school children, sick people, elders, and the rest of the community get the supplies they so badly need"?
Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton echoed those concerns.
"Northern Manitobans and people in northern Saskatchewan need action now from the federal government," she said.
"And thanks to an unusually mild winter, as a result of climate change, ice roads to all isolated communities in northern Manitoba opened late and some aren't even open at all. It is increasingly impossible for communities to get all the vital supplies they need like housing materials, food and fuel."
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett responded by saying the federal government recognizes the importance of winter roads to get supplies to remote communities.
"Because of climate change and because of this short season we are, we are really in trouble in terms of this kind of access that's no longer there," Bennett said.
She said that the government is monitoring the issue and will work with communities to find out how to get vital equipment in as soon as possible. Bennett added that a reliable network of ice roads is essential.
"We know we need long term solutions."
In the wake of the Paris Climate Summit and with this year's mild winter, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations renewed its calls for a northern grid road system in the province in January.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said northern communities were at a greater risk due to climate change.