NEMI Township requests provincial intervention to end highway blockage

Ministry of Transportation signs such as the one found in Mindemoya warn drivers of the travel restrictions ahead. photos by Alicia McCutcheon




April 30, 2020

For immediate release:

LITTLE CURRENT – The Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (Northeast Town) is formally requesting that the Province of Ontario take the necessary steps to reopen Highway 540 and 551 to the travelling public. Both highways have been blocked since Saturday, April 25, when Chief Linda Debassige of M’Chigeeng First Nation implemented a travel restriction under which any vehicle not meeting the terms deemed essential by her council would not be permitted to travel through M’Chigeeng on either Highway 540 or Highway 551. 

In a letter sent to the Honourable Caroline Mulroney, the Minister of Transportation, Mayor Al MacNevin states that the travel restriction has created several major issues that threaten the safety of the travelling public and that it places an unreasonable burden on the residents of Manitoulin Island that travel those highways.  As a result of M’Chigeeng’s decision to close two provincial highways, the Northeast Town has seen a dramatic increase in traffic on several municipal roads that are being used to detour around the First Nation.  Those roads are not designed for the volumes of traffic they are experiencing and the roads are particularly vulnerable during this period as half-load restrictions are in place.  Rural residents are reporting that drivers who are unfamiliar with these roads are getting confused and requiring redirection and that drivers not conditioned to driving on gravel roads are travelling at excessive speeds which poses a threat to other drivers and pedestrians walking those rural roads. 

Mayor MacNevin said, “Our immediate concern is that this situation will result in either accidents on our roads or an incident at the blockade on the highway. We are all legitimately concerned about COVID-19 and want to protect our families but we also need to remember the rule of law and that our actions, regardless of how well intended, can put others at risk. This blockade is not merely an inconvenience; it is a threat to the safety of the travelling public which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.” He went on to say that “it is clear that traffic should be travelling on the provincial highways and that the actions of the First Nation are frustrating motorists at a time when many people are already extremely stressed trying to deal with the implications of the current pandemic.”

The Northeast Town recognizes that only the province has the authority to restrict traffic on its highways and trusts that the province will work with the First Nation to resolve this issue in a reasonable and expedient manner.

For additional information please contact:

Mayor Al MacNevin

705 348-1951