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Statement from Moose Cree First Nation
June 10, 2020
Reinstatement of Polar Bear Express Train Service
This morning a conference call was hosted by the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) in which Chief Mervin Cheechoo and Deputy Chief Earl Cheechoo participated along with representatives from the Moose Factory Pandemic Emergency Operations Team, the Town of Moosonee, Mushkegowuk Council, MoCreebec, and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority. The purpose of this call was to discuss the ONTC announcement that the Polar Bear Express train service will be partially reinstated on Thursday, June 25, 2020 with two trains operating per week.
ONTC made this decision despite clear opposition from Moose Cree First Nation and other aboriginal organizations in the community. The Chief & Council does not support this decision by ONTC due to the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to the community, and on the conference call Chief Mervin Cheechoo again clearly expressed this opposition.
The Chief & Council opposes ONTC’s decision due to several factors including the consistently high number of approximately 300-400 new cases every day in the province, and that Ontario continues to extend its Pandemic State of Emergency.
Other factors include the fact that Moose Factory has a high percentage of community members with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and asthma that place them at high risk of death should they contract the virus. This risk is made worse by the limited capacity of the local health service facilities to effectively deal with an outbreak in the community. The Elders have spoken as well, and many have expressed their opinion to Chief & Council that the train service should remain suspended for as long as possible in order to protect the health of all community members.
The Moose Factory Pandemic Emergency Operations Team, comprised of health professionals from Moose Cree First Nation, MoCreebec, Mushkegowuk and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, are also unanimous in their position that June 25, 2020 is too early to partially reinstate the train service.
We know the suspension of the train service has been inconvenient for some, but we believe this action has been the primary reason there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Moose Factory or Moosonee. We also believe that reinstating the train service on June 25, 2020 is premature as we strongly feel the health and safety of our community members should be the highest priority over all other interests.
For questions or further information please contact:
Jeff Hunter, Executive Services Coordinator, MCFN