Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler recently stressed the importance of an agreement between the provincial and federal governments to support air carriers serving remote First Nation communities.
“I am pleased to hear of Ontario’s recent announcement in partnership with the federal government to aid essential air travel to remote First Nations in northern Ontario,” Fiddler says. “This commitment addresses inequities in services for First Nations and improve their quality of life. Air transportation in NAN (Nishnawbe Aski Nation) territory is vital to the health and well being of our remote (citizens). We look to both levels of government to ensure these commitments will transcend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to provide future enhancements.”
The federal government announced an investment of up to $11,134,000 for air services to remote communities in Ontario to cover the period of July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 and the provincial government announced $14.2 million to operate remote airports in 2020/21, including an additional $4 million this year to ensure continued safe operations during the pandemic.
“Small air carriers provide remote northern First Nations communities with a vital connection to critical supplies and essential services, including health care,” says Greg Rickford, provincial minister of Indigenous Affairs. “This funding will help ensure the unique and immediate needs of these communities are continuously met during COVID-19.”
Caroline Mulroney, provincial minister of Transportation, says Ontario’s small air carriers play an essential role in connecting northern and remote communities with goods and critical services.
“Today’s announcement builds on our government’s ongoing investment and support through our remote and northern airports program, demonstrating our continued commitment to supporting communities in northern Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Mulroney says. “This funding is part of our transportation plan for northern Ontario, Connecting the North, which clearly indicates how we will provide reliable transportation to meet the unique needs of the region and help ensure people have access to critical services.”
Under the agreement, the provincial government will allocate funding to air operators to ensure the continued supply of food, medical supplies and other essential goods and services to the communities.
“While we continue to work together to limit the spread of COVID-19, we must also ensure remote communities continue to have the air connectivity they need for essential goods and services, travel and business,” says Omar Alghabra, federal minister of Transport. “This agreement with the government of Ontario will allow for reliable air services to keep remote communities in Ontario connected to the rest of the country.”
The federal government announced new measures in August 2020 to support essential air access to remote communities during the pandemic, including seeking bilateral agreements with provinces and territories to ensure continuity of service for at least six months; and establishing a $75-million funding program for the federal contribution for the first six months and maintaining these essential services through an investment of up to $174 million over 18 months, if needed.
“Flights are an essential link for fly-in and remote First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities,” says Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous Services Canada, during the August funding announcement. “This funding will go a long way in ensuring that fly-in communities have the essential services, goods and equipment they need to prevent and respond to any outbreak of COVID-19. Canada will keep working hard to ensure continuity of services.”
Daniel Vandal, federal minister of Northern Affairs, says during the August funding announcement that the federal government has been working with partners to respond to the unique needs of northern and remote communities since the beginning of the pandemic.
“This support is positive news for all northerners and is a result of continued collaboration and partnership,” Vandal says. “This will ensure supply chains remain open to those living in isolated Nutrition North Canada eligible communities, who depend on air transportation for the regular delivery of perishable nutritious foods, personal hygiene products and other essential items.”