For immediate release
July 30, 2020

Treaty Five Territory, Thompson, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this media release on behalf of War Lake First Nation. Citizens from the First Nation are planning to block the rail line running through their territory due to their lack of ability to purchase tickets on these trains as well as mixed messaging about COVID-19 health measures.

“War Lake citizens have been instructed to wear masks while travelling on Via Rail due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Chief Betsy Kennedy of War Lake First Nation. “These same residents have witnessed non-Indigenous tourists being allowed to travel on Via Rail without wearing a mask. This is a two-tier system and it’s unacceptable.”

“Our second concern is that Via Rail selling all tickets to tourists heading to Churchill. Due to the uptick in tourism, as a result of COVID travel restrictions, War Lake residents are not able to access tickets for the train to Ilford. War Lake citizens depend upon the train for essential travel,” shared Chief Kennedy. “We are taking action today to make it known that Via Rail absolutely needs to set aside some tickets for residents living in Northern communities.”

“MKO sent a letter to Via Rail earlier this week asking them to rectify this situation immediately,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “The citizens of War Lake First Nation rely on rail service to travel and to transport goods. I have asked the CEO and President of Via Rail to investigate the concerns of War Lake citizens immediately in an effort to avoid direct action being taken by War Lake citizens. There are plans to block the tracks heading to Northern Manitoba if they do not receive a satisfactory response from Via Rail.”

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