The Village of Fort Simpson believes it should be added to the federal Nutrition North program during freeze-up and break-up.
Five NWT communities – Inuvik, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Tuktoyaktuk, and Nahanni Butte – were recently added to the program on a seasonal basis. Doing so will subsidize the cost of groceries and other goods while those places are cut off from highway access each spring and fall.
Though Fort Simpson was not on the list, the village is similarly isolated from the main road network for weeks at a time when the winter road is out of service and the ferry cannot run.
At Monday’s village council meeting, councillors said Fort Simpson may qualify for seasonal Nutrition North subsidies. Mayor Sean Whelly suggested the village experiences more isolation than some of the communities that just joined the program.
According to his calculations, Fort Simpson spends about 54 days a year cut off.
“I think we should be asking Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada … to consider our eligibility,” Whelly said.
Councillors added the ferry sometimes experiences mechanical issues, sporadically isolating the community even in the summer season.
Whelly said the Covid-19 pandemic and this year’s flooding had heightened food insecurity and driven up prices. He is drafting a resolution for council approval that would trigger a request to the federal government for inclusion in Nutrition North.
Nutrition North currently operates, in some form, in 19 NWT communities. Requirements to qualify include a lack of access to year-round ground transportation but the presence of an airport, post office, or grocery store.
In the longer term, Fort Simpson continues to pursue the creation of a bridge to guarantee year-round road access to and from the community.
A study examining the feasibility of a bridge over the Liard River is to be completed later this year.