For immediate release
October 30, 2019
Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) is issuing this statement on behalf of Chief Eric Redhead of Shamattawa First Nation in Northern Manitoba.
“Today we are calling on Perimeter Aviation to step up and start providing consistently reliable air transport services for the citizens of Shamattawa First Nation,” stated Chief Redhead. “Perimeter is regularly overbooking flights out of Shamattawa. This is causing our citizens to miss important medical appointments. This is unnecessarily putting our members at risk.”
Shamattawa is a remote First Nation in Northern Manitoba that relies on the services of Perimeter Aviation to get its citizens to Winnipeg and Thompson. The First Nation has a 10-year agreement with Perimeter Aviation which states that the First Nation must use the services of Perimeter rather than another airline.
“We have had to resort to chartering private planes so that our citizens can access medical appointments. This comes at great expense to the First Nation and these are funds that are needed in other areas,” shared Chief Redhead. “Two to four people are cancelling and trying to re-book their important medical procedures on a daily basis. Elders are booked for surgeries, babies have appointments with specialists, and the community is at a loss as to what to do because we do have an ongoing, binding agreement with Perimeter Aviation. This large corporation, which profits almost entirely off Northern First Nations, is letting us down.”
Perimeter operates flights from Winnipeg into Shamattawa six days per week. The flight, which takes less than two hours, is usually overbooked. Shamattawa residents with medical appointments in Winnipeg and Thompson are often unable to board their flights. They must cancel their medical appointments and procedures, some of which require months to receive, with less than 24 hours’ notice. Driving to medical appointments is not an option for most of the year, as there is no all-weather road in and out of the community.
“We demand better and our citizens deserve better. The overbooked flights and unreliable service is absolutely putting our members’ lives on the line. First Nations people already have worse health and a lower life expectancy than all other Manitoba residents. We must address this immediately,” said Chief Redhead. “We absolutely need to see action on this matter. Now it is time for the federal government to step in because health is a Treaty right. I call on the federal government to investigate this matter to help us ensure that our citizens can exercise their Treaty right to accessing medical services.”