Warmth, temperature volatility cutting First Nations off from provincial road network
For many northern Ontario First Nations, apart from air travel, the only connection to the rest of the province is seasonal winter roads built each year on the frozen rivers, lakes, muskeg and earth. As climate change continues to narrow the window during which winter roads are useable, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) gathered in Thunder Bay to strategize how to keep its communities connected in a rapidly thawing north.
In a summit overview handout, NAN said that climate change has “reduced the length of winter road season from an average of 77 days, to as few as 28 days or less in some areas.”
For several weeks each winter, tractor-trailers make their way into remote, fly-in First Nations via a series of crossings over frozen lakes and streams, delivering fuel, building supplies and other large loads that would be difficult and expensive to transport by air.
As warmer temperatures put the long-term viability of the winter road network at risk, some said it’s time to start looking at more permanent infrastructure. Roy Moonias, the project co-ordinator for Neskantaga First Nation, said anyone coming or going from Neskantaga has to cross three kilometres over a lake.