Saskatchewan rural bus service a must for vulnerable people: B.C. First Nation

B.C. First Nation says Sask bus service a must

VANCOUVER — Saskatchewan needed innovative ways to continue providing rural bus service instead of gutting it altogether, says an advocate for a British Columbia First Nation that fought for 10 years to get transportation along a route where women have been murdered.

Dawn George, a councillor and health and wellness co-ordinator for the Takla Lake First Nation in north-central B.C., said her province finally started bus service to communities along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears, by forming partnerships with First Nations.

“There’s a lot of challenges that First Nations people need to overcome in the entire country and I believe that it’s the people who are in government and have that political position who should also consider First Nation needs.”

Communities must be included in the development, implementation and delivery of services and even share in some of the costs to feel empowered, George said.

The Saskatchewan government’s decision to stop subsidizing rural bus service across the province will affect the health of many rural citizens — who are sometimes poor — in multiple ways because they will not have access to fresh food, doctors’ visits and connection with loved ones, she said.

The government announced in its budget last week that the Saskatchewan Transportation Company will cease operating on May 31 because ridership has declined and the province would have to pump $85 million into the service over the next five years to keep it running.

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the lack of public transportation will impact First Nations and non-First Nations, particularly seniors who have no other travel options in rural and remote areas.

“How are they going to take care of their medical needs, their transportation needs, even to just go see family members?”

The Saskatchewan government said in a statement that “fiscal challenges facing the province” forced the closure of the STC after various operating models were considered but required significant capital investment.

“Under multiple governments, various STC routes have been discontinued, and the province of Saskatchewan was the only province to still operate a broad service covering the entire province,” the statement said.

It said the province expects private, alternative operators to offer services along routes “where demand warrants,” adding two primary corridors are now served by Greyhound Canada.

In British Columbia, First Nations leaders and mayors pushed the government to fund transportation along Highway 16, which stretches between Prince George and Prince Rupert and where 18 women have disappeared or have been murdered since the 1970s.

The B.C. government finally came up with a transportation plan last year, but only after a decade of advocacy and a 2012 report from a missing women inquiry that had commissioner Wally Oppal recommending bus service along the 700-kilometre corridor where people often hitchhike to get around.

Service is being rolled out separately in various communities and started in January with a 30-minute, six-days-a-week shuttle along a small section of the highway, from Moricetown and Smithers.

The province has said further route expansion announcements are planned for the coming months. It’s also offering vehicle grants and training for bus drivers between their villages and major communities along the highway.

George, who is currently on an education leave at the University of Northern B.C. and finishing her health sciences degree specializing in aboriginal and rural communities, said she wrote the proposal for a successful grant application for the Takla First Nation to buy a shuttle bus and operate it for two years.

The government has agreed to pay 70 per cent of the $193,000 cost while the First Nation will pitch in the rest, she said, adding the bus is expected to arrive in the community in the next couple of months.

She said the service will include a weekly five-hour trip to Prince George.

“I think it’s going to change everything,” George said of the long-awaited delivery of bus service that could eventually be available to non-members.

“I look forward to the day when everyone can go to where they need to go and have better outcomes in their health.”

Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Indigenous festival co-creator looking to build traditonal Okanagan event

The inaugural Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Festival is July 6 and 7

Police seek two suspects and car after stabbing in Kelowna

The stabbing took place on Friday evening on Wilson Avenue. It sent one man to hospital.

Caged: Kelowna Falcons suffer 6th straight loss

The Falcons look for revenge Saturday night after a 15-5 loss

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

Pirko found guilty in the 2014 second-degree murder of Chris Ausman

A Kelowna jury found Steven Randy Pirko guilty of the second-degree murder

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

South Okanagan pharmacy restricted from dispensing opioid treatment drugs

B.C. College of Pharmacists alleges Sunrise Pharmacy dispensed treatment drugs against rules

Okanagan pitcher tosses second no-hitter of season

Vernon’s Jarod Leroux has two no-nos in his last three starts for the BCPBL’s Okanagan Athletics

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Summerland ready for dry summer conditions

Province has declared Level Two drought, but Summerland has not increased watering restrictions

Summerland pioneers had connection to Middlesex, England

Harry Dunsdon and Richard Turner became cattlemen

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Give Hope Wings fundraiser launches Saturday from Pitt Meadows

Flying marathon will benefit low income Canadians needing flights for medical treatment

Most Read