Canadian air carriers serving remote First Nation communities in Northern Ontario are to receive up to CAD11.1 million Canadian dollars (USD8.7 million) in financial support from the province and the federal government to help ensure the communities have access to essential goods and services during COVID-19.

Ontario is also adding another CAD4 million (USD3.1 million) to its CAD14.2 million (USD11.1 million) 2020/21 budget to support continued safe operations of remote airports during the pandemic.

Announcing the new funding, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, said in a statement: "Small air carriers provide remote northern First Nations communities with a vital connection to critical supplies and essential services, including health care. This funding will help ensure the unique and immediate needs of these communities are continuously met during COVID-19."

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, said the investment in the remote and northern airports programme was part of the transportation plan for Northern Ontario, dubbed “Connecting the North”.

Remote First Nations communities rely on air carriers to provide access to employment, health care, education, justice, child, family, and social services, in addition to helping maintain cultural and familial connections.

Canada’s federal Ministry of Transportation owns and operates 29 airports, 27 of which support remote First Nation communities. There are 34 remote communities in Northern Ontario, 28 of which do not have year-round road access and rely on small commercial air carriers for essential services and goods.

One of these is Canadian North (5T, Yellowknife), which connects 25 northern communities with major hubs such as Ottawa Int'l, Montréal Trudeau, Winnipeg Int'l, and Edmonton Int'l. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, it currently flies one B737-200(C), eight B737-300s, and two B737-300(QC)s. The rest of its fleet is wet-leased from Summit Air Charters (Yellowknife) and First Air (7F, Carp) including two ARJ85s, three each ATR42-300s and ATR42-300(QC)s, six ATR42-500s, one B737-400, three B737-400(C)s.

Other air carriers serving First Nation communities include Missinippi Airways (Grace Lake) (which flies to remote communities in Northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nunavut), Air Inuit (3H, Kuujjuaq) (which serves Nunavik, Labrador, and Nunavut), and Air Creebec (YN, Val d'Or) (which serves the Cree nation, one of the largest First Nations groups in Canada).