Province to post signs near swing bridge encouraging people to please stay at home

Swing Bridge, June 2019

An attempt to stop COVID-19

MANITOULIN – As a way to dissuade people from driving on or off Manitoulin Island during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will be installing a static sign on Highway 6 before the Little Current Swing Bridge encouraging everyone to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to stay at their permanent home. 

An email was forwarded to members of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) by Ogimaa-kwe (Chief) Linda Debassige of M’Chigeeng First Nation, sent from Herb Villneff, regional director of the Northeastern Region of the MTO, earlier this week. Mr. Villneff noted that he had attended a meeting with Aundeck Omni Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere, Chief Debassige, Sheguiandah Chief Andrew Aguonie, Nipissing Chief Scott McLeod and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) representatives, on April 17.
In his email Mr. Villneff said, “I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with the Ministry of Transportation on April 17, 2020 to discuss concerns around non-essential travel on Manitoulin Island. Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians. However, it is essential that the highway network continues to be available and in a good condition to allow for the efficient and effective movement of goods and people, including first responders and for supply chain management.” 

“I wanted to provide an update that your concerns, along with the uniqueness of Manitoulin Island, have been shared with the province. The ministry will be installing a static sign on Highway 6 in advance of the Little Current swing bridge, reminding travelers of the current situation,” reported Mr. Villneff. “This sign will include the following message: Stop COVID-19 Stay Home-Essential Travel Only. We anticipate this sign will be in place before (this) weekend.”

Mr. Villneff told the Recorder, “the chiefs had relayed their concerns about the checkpoint that had been established in M’Chigeeng First Nation, and the amount of traffic coming on, and leaving the Island. These are the same type of concerns being shared around the province.”  

He explained, “no, the message is not mandatory, the province is recommending and reminding people to stop the spread of COVID-19 and stay at home.”

As was reported previously, on April 8, M’Chigeeng Chief Debassige announced her community would be instituting a volunteer-led checkpoint on Highway 540 at the east entrance to M’Chigeeng, its goal intended to establish where travelers were coming from, their destinations and their reasons for travel as the community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, specifically, concerns about who was travelling through the M’Chigeeng territory along the highway corridors. Statistics were gathered from travellers both west and east bound.

Chief Debassige then released six days of data to Manitoulin’s municipalities and First Nations. From April 9 to 14, the checkpoint volunteers stopped 1,944 vehicles. Thirty-one percent of those vehicles (and their drivers and passengers) were coming from off-Island and 47 percent of these indicated they were going to their camp or to self-isolate on Manitoulin. Twenty-seven percent of those off-Island travellers did not specify (the answers are voluntary) with the volunteers as to why they were on Manitoulin. The remaining 69 percent of travelers came from across Manitoulin.