Weather af­fect­ing win­ter roads for First Na­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Wonky weather con­di­tions are prompt­ing abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers to raise con­cerns about the im­pact of cli­mate change on win­ter roads, which serve as life­lines for food, fuel and other ne­ces­si­ties in sev­eral north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

Isadore Day, the On­tario re­gional chief for the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions, said the re­li­a­bil­ity of the north­ern win­ter road net­work is in jeop­ardy in his prov­ince.

“The win­ter roads have es­sen­tially be­come a way of life for the com­mu­ni­ties and now they can’t rely on those win­ter roads,’’ Day said, not­ing the net­work is used to off­set the cost to bring es­sen­tial goods to flyin re­serves by air.

The prob­lem ex­em­pli­fies why there was out­cry from First Na­tions dur­ing the re­cent COP21 cli­mate change sum­mit in Paris, Day said.

“This is the where the type of rub­ber is­sue

hits the road,’’ he said.

“There will be no road if we don’t have an op­por­tu­nity to speak for our­selves on the is­sue of cli­mate change and this cer­tainly is a direct im­pact.’’

If peo­ple want ac­cess into the north, the only vi­able way now is to have a proper road net­work, Day added.

NDP in­dige­nous af­fairs critic Char­lie An­gus, who rep­re­sents a north­ern On­tario rid­ing that in­cludes a num­ber of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, said money needs to be in­vested in sus­tain­able in­fra­struc­ture.

There has been a long-stand­ing push for per­ma­nent roads but cli­mate change has made the is­sue much more press­ing, he noted.

“My mes­sage to the gov­ern­ment is ‘you’re go­ing to have to put your money where your mouth is when you make th­ese prom­ises,’’’ An­gus said.

“This is the front line and this is where the ac­tion needs to be tak­ing place now.’’

There is “ev­ery ev­i­dence’’ Canada’s Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples are in­deed on the front lines of cli­mate change, In­dige­nous Af­fairs Min­is­ter Carolyn Ben­nett said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press.

“I think it is very wor­ry­ing and I think that as we look not only to On­tario but to Man­i­toba, the pro­pos­als for the east­ern road there, it is some­thing that we are look­ing at and know­ing that we’ve got to build the kind of re­silient in­fra­struc­ture that will deal with the chang­ing cli­mate.’’

The fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is open to ex­am­in­ing the im­pacts of the is­sue to al­low for a long-term strat­egy to be de­vel­oped, Ben­nett added.

CP PHOTO

On­tario Re­gional Chief Isadore Day at­tends a news con­fer­ence at the On­tario Leg­is­la­ture in Toronto on Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 9. 2015.

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