Life in Northern Ontario Depends on Transportation

Communities across the North come together for feasts. Here in Fort Severn, the community shares after the annual Bull Hunt.
Communities across the North come together for feasts. Here in Fort Severn, the community shares after the annual Bull Hunt.

Communities across the North come together for feasts. Here in Fort Severn, the community shares after the annual Bull Hunt.
Communities across the North come together for feasts. Here in Fort Severn, the community shares after the annual Bull Hunt.

Living in Northern Ontario’s Far North

THUNDER BAY – Life in Northwestern Ontario is a life filled with variety. From the urban centres like Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Kenora, Atikokan and Fort Frances to the far reaches of the North, in communities like Fort Severn, Sachigo Lake, Webiquie, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat, there are many contrasts.

Shopping

The Northern Store is one of the main options in many Northern Communities across Canada.
The Northern Store is one of the main options in many Northern Communities across Canada.

While many people in the “Southern” parts of Northwestern Ontario enjoy a great variety of choices for shopping, in the North, prices for groceries, and the selection of many products is far more limited, and often far more expensive.

Yes, $26.99 for a twelve pack of soft drinks. Prices are equally high for milk or juice.
Yes, $26.99 for a twelve pack of soft drinks. Prices are equally high for milk or juice.

While a case of soft drinks are usually about $3 – $4 in Thunder Bay, in northern communities prices of up to $26 is not uncommon.

The price in Thunder Bay is usually $2.00 or three for $5
The price in Thunder Bay is usually $2.00 or three for $5

Getting fresh fruits and vegetables can bring what is in effect prices more like the diamonds that are mined at the DeBeers mine near Attawapiskat.

Having reliable transportation is critical for northern communities.

North Star AirThat transportation network, especially for northern communities needs efficiency for essential service and good healthy competition. This contributes benefits to community members by putting the pressure on the airlines to strive toward optimal performance to keep their cost down.

The more efficient the air services are, the more it allows stores in the north to pass on savings that they should realize to customers.

In the winter the Ontario Winter Roads program connects many of the communities across the North by ice roads. Communities like Fort Severn connect for example to Thompson Manitoba, and then down to Winnipeg.

Air transportation is a vital link for people across Northern Ontario.

Education

Moving past elementary school in the far north of Ontario means students travel south for the school year to Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout or Thunder Bay.

Students often live the school year apart from their families in Boarding Homes.

For post-secondary education, while many feel that “Education is Free” the reality is that there is limited funding for many students.

That air transportation link for students is vital. Having a focus on safety and reliability is key for students, and their parents and grandparents as well.

It is hard enough for parents and family to let their loved ones go south to school, let alone have them concerned over the travel.

Ornge Air AmbulanceHealth

While people in the south make a quick trip to the Emergency Clinic if something happens and a loved one needs medical attention, in the north people needing medical attention head south by air.

There are, depending on where one lives, either air ambulances or helicopters that transport patients south. Getting out to needed healthcare demands reliable service. It can be a matter of life and death in some cases.

Increasingly the use of broadband technology is increasing across the North. Tele-medicine where the doctor can see the patient on video screen is increasingly common.

Travel

De Beers Victor Mine Convoy on Winter Road
The winter ice road allows needed materials into Attawapiskat and the De Beers Victor Mine.

Everything that arrives in a northern community comes in either by air or in winter on the ice road. Large items often had to wait until winter to be brought into a community.

For building materials, including pre-fabricated homes, they would be transported north in the winter, and then installed in the community in the summer.

Many people in the North travel by air for events across the region. Hockey tournaments, Pow Wows, and trips out for shopping or fun are common.

Community Activities

Contact.... contact... the airplane having fun in the Attawapiskat Christmas Parade. Photo by Rosiewoman Cree.
Contact…. contact… the airplane having fun in the Attawapiskat Christmas Parade. Photo by Rosiewoman Cree.

Across the north, often to the surprise of people in the south, life is not all that different. There are the same kinds of community events, cultural events and family events.

There are some events that depend on the weather. More extreme weather conditions in the North can impact outdoor activities.

Traditional hunting, fishing and trapping are still very common for many people. With hunting the traditional feast after a successful hunt is the same today as it has always been.

The contrasts across the north however are increasingly less as technology improves, and as transportation options and reliability increases.

Milan Hookimaw was choosen 'top un-dead" and won the Dr. Dre Beats Speaker
Milan Hookimaw was choosen ‘top un-dead” and won the Dr. Dre Beats Speaker

Communities across Northern Ontario are served by Bearskin Air, Wasaya Airlines, Cargo North, and North Star Air.