First Nations will rise to challenge – by Xavier Kataquapit (December 5, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Things are not looking good for remote First Nation communities in northern Canada. In particular there are serious problems developing for communities up the James Bay coast and much of this has to do with global warming and changes in weather patterns.

My people, the Cree of James Bay, could always count more or less on food, products and fuel being shipped up by barge in the summer and by the ice road in the winter. Although air transport has been available for many years, it is reserved mainly for passenger travel as the cost is very high to move goods by aircraft.

Very rapidly, over the past few years, it is becoming obvious that the great changes in weather are affecting the movement of goods to remote First Nations like Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan.

Weather is playing havoc with the winter ice road. When I was a boy a few decades ago the winter road was built from Moosonee to the James Bay coastal remote First Nations in late December and it lasted until April on average.

With the great changes in weather, the ice road construction has to wait until late January and it melts much earlier in March.

This means that fewer necessities like food, fuel and consumer products are delivered to these remote First Nations.

As a child I recall the importance of the barge arriving in Attawapiskat. Even back then when weather conditions were more stable and predictable it took the great expertise of barge captains and local Elders to make sure these huge water craft could navigate the shallow James Bay and make it into landing ports at our remote First Nations.

With global warming we are seeing changes in the water levels of James Bay and that is causing great concern for the continued transportation of goods by barge.

The warming trends in the Far North also affects road construction that is being considered in all of these remote First Nations.

You have to remember that much of the coastal area around the great James Bay is made up of muskeg which is more or less like sponge and it is very difficult to construct anything on this type of environment. It is also difficult to develop rail or road surfaces. That is primarily why there are no roads or rail lines north of Moosonee.

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