Garden River First Nation held a peaceful protest yesterday by closing down Highway 17B to draw attention to the high number of fatal accidents, as well as close calls with pedestrians and children boarding school buses, due to motorists cutting through the community during commuter rush hours.
“This is not only a public safety issue, but an issue that appears to demonstrate a lack of respect for the citizens of Garden River First Nation,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day. “The province went to great lengths to build a bypass around this community so people commuting to work in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as tractor trailers, would not speed through a built up residential area. Instead, lives are put at risk on a daily basis.
“Last month, the Chiefs of Ontario met with the Ontario Transport Minister Steven Del Duca to specifically talk about the need for safety measures such as speed limit signs, school zone signs, and cross walks in a number of First Nation communities,” said Regional Chief Day. “These are easily doable measures that can be implemented in a matter of months. We look forward to a progress report by our June All Chiefs Conference.”
Over the past three decades, at least 35 residents of Garden River First Nation have been killed in traffic accidents. Today, family members held photos of their deceased loved ones, while others handed out information pamphlets. Sadly, this past Friday night, two more people were killed in a collision between a car and a transport truck that was taking a short cut through the community.
“My heart sank when I received the phone call about this latest tragic accident,” said Garden River First Nation Chief Paul Syrette. “Although none of our community members were involved, two people lost their lives in another senseless accident. It could have been worse as the collision narrowly missed a home. At the same time, our first responders are now dealing with the emotional impact of a particularly horrific accident scene.”
Chief Syrette added he is pleased that the Chiefs of Ontario will be advocating on the issues of traffic flow safety, action to save lives, and to bring justice on the tragic loss of lives not just in Garden River but in many other First Nations across the Province. Further, Garden River First Nation will be seeking the Chiefs of Ontario to facilitate high level meetings with the Ontario Government utilizing the Political Accord.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.