THUNDER BAY – The Government of Ontario recently announced the sale of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC). ONTC is responsible for connecting the North by physical means on rail and road and water. The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) opposes this decision due to the negative effects that will arise from the sale and the resulting discontinuation of the Northern Railway Freight and Passenger Service.
Eliminating the ONTC will eliminate all forms of direct travel for Northern communities. The only method of transportation will require lay-over’s and transfers, making travel and access to and from the North far more difficult, increasing isolation of our Northern communities. Subsequently, it will significantly reduce access to critical services such as healthcare, an imposition that will be most detrimental for Aboriginal women with families, those struggling with addiction, the chronically or severely ill, and women who are pregnant.
The sale of the ONTC will also cause financial hardships for a population that is already struggling to survive financially. “We know that Aboriginal women are the most impoverished population in Ontario,” explains Betty Kennedy, Executive Director of ONWA. “If people are forced to fly in and out of their Northern communities, that would present a substantial financial implication that many people simply cannot afford.”
Dorothy Wynne, a resident of the North and member of ONWA has a first-hand perspective of how this sale will negatively impact living conditions for Northern communities. “Not only will travel expenses rise dramatically, but the general cost of living will increase as well,” says Wynne. “We are already experiencing reduced access due to the shorter season of ice roads. Now the loss of the ONTC will make it even more difficult to receive food and supplies, causing the costs to skyrocket. In addition, our tourism, hunting and fishing industries will also suffer,” she explains.
This change will not only affect Northern Aboriginal communities, but surrounding businesses and municipalities. ONWA urges the Province of Ontario to listen to our Northern residents who are very clear that selling the ONTC will have devastating effects to communities and halt the sale of the ONTC.
For more information, concerned citizens are encouraged to visit www.developingthenorth.com and get involved in the fight to protect our Northern neighbours.