State of emergency declared by Manitoba First Nations using winter roads

Remote Manitoban communities have declared a state of emergency as some winter roads remain closed, cutting off access to vital supplies.

Anininew Okimawin Grand Chief Scott Harper said they are in crisis mode. “The warm weather has led to the rapid deterioration of the newly constructed winter road that provides the vital road transport access to the isolated communities in the region during our winter months,” he said.

The chiefs of Garden Hill, Red Sucker Lake, St. Theresa Point Asininew, and Wasagamack First Nation said there are 800 loads of food and supplies that haven’t been able to get through.

Click to play video: 'Northern Manitoba winter road challenges'

Northern Manitoba winter road challenges

Chief Charles Knott of Garden Hill First Nation said the community only has a week worth of fuel remaining, which they depend on for things like water transportation and school buses.

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“I don’t know what we’re going to do once we run out. I don’t want to close the school down, but I don’t know what to do,” Knott said.

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The food and supplies they do have are beyond expensive. A 4-litre jug of milk costs $9 in St. Theresa Point, and a box of diapers costs up to $50.

Vincent Simms, a foreman who works on the road to Red Sucker Lake, said many roads that are open are in poor condition. “We have six creek crossings that we have to construct. We’re battling open water that does not want to freeze,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba’s winter roads now open'

Manitoba’s winter roads now open

With temperatures continuing to trend upward, community leaders and environmental experts say conditions are only going to get worse.

Ryan Ness from the Canadian Climate Institute says later freezes and thawing permafrost will likely make winter roads unviable by the end of the century.

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“In more southern parts of the country including the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, it may not be possible to even construct (winter roads) at all for any short period of time,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Shorter winter road seasons leave remote communities concerned'

Shorter winter road seasons leave remote communities concerned

The nations are asking all levels of government for help implementing other transportation methods, and all-weather roads.

On Jan. 31, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs announced a proposal for a permanent road stretching from St. Theresa Point Asininew First Nation to Berens River First Nation.

Manitoba’s minister of Northern Relations Ian Bushie said the province will be meeting with the nations soon to discuss short- and long-term solutions to keep goods flowing.

–with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian

Click to play video: 'Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs calls for permanent road connecting remote communities'

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs calls for permanent road connecting remote communities

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