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Transit Equity and Indigenous Peoples: A Call for Action on National Indigenous Peoples Day

This National Indigenous Peoples Day, we highlight a persistent challenge affecting Indigenous communities across Canada: the lack of safe and accessible transportation. Discover the impact of mobility gaps and the innovative, community-led solutions making a difference. Together, let's advocate for safe, reliable, and inclusive transportation systems for all.

Rebecca Apostoli
Artwork by James P. Johnson (Tlingit)

National Indigenous Peoples Day, celebrated on June 21st, is a day to recognize, honor and celebrate the rich heritage, cultures, and significant contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. What many might not know is that this day almost always coincides with the summer solstice—the longest day of the year— and this alignment is intentional. The date was selected due to the summer solstice's deep symbolic significance, representing the day Indigenous communities celebrated their culture and heritage.

Transportation Gaps: A Barrier to Equity

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, it's crucial to recognize a persistent challenge impacting Indigenous communities across Canada: the lack of safe and accessible transportation. This issue is intertwined with the alarming rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual individuals (MMIWG2S+).

The 2019 Reclaiming Power and Place (RPP) report highlighted the pervasive violence and vulnerabilities disproportionately affecting Indigenous women and two-spirit individuals. Among its 231 Calls for Justice was a call to address limited mobility in rural and remote areas. Responding to this call, a new report titled Improving the Intercommunity Mobility of First Nation Peoples in Canada emphasizes the urgent need for action.

Mobility Justice in Action

The termination of Greyhound Canada's services, which once connected many rural and remote areas, has exacerbated these challenges. The lack of reliable transportation hinders access to essential services, economic opportunities, and educational pursuits, further marginalizing Indigenous communities.

The concept of "mobility justice," as emphasized in the RPP report, underscores the government's responsibility to provide safe, reliable, and equitable transportation systems. Examples like the Spare-powered Zunga Bus in Powell River, B.C., and the Keewatin Railway Company (KRC) in Manitoba showcase the potential of community-led solutions. The KRC, owned by three partner Nations, stands as a beacon of hope, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.

Another noteworthy service is the Concho Valley Transit for the Concho Valley Transit District (CVTD). Developed in close collaboration with Spare, this service was launched a little over two months ago. With a mission to provide essential transportation services to previously underserved communities, this service aims to transform mobility across rural and urban Texas, serving residents across 11 counties, including the Concho and Jumano Indigenous tribes.

To address the lack of safe and accessible transportation comprehensively, Canada must follow several recommendations:

  1. Invest in Sustainable Transport: Align with the UN’s definition of sustainable transport and significantly invest in safe and affordable inter-community mobility.
  2. Targeted Federal Funding: Establish grant funding initiatives tailored for First Nation communities, ensuring a gender-based analysis “plus” approach.
  3. Enhance Transportation Data: Conduct research led by community advocates (and transit experts like Spare!) to inform decision-making and appropriate funding allocations.
  4. Enhance On-demand Transit Services: That data should then funnel into funding decisions at the Federal, Provincial, Tribe and Band level for how on-demand transit services get proposed and implemented in First Nation communities.

Building a Road to Equity

The road to justice for First Nation communities requires a paradigm shift in how we perceive transportation. It is not just about mobility; it is about restoring agency, dignity, and safety. By embracing community-led solutions rooted in reconciliation and self-determination, we can build a more equitable and inclusive future for everyone. Spare is committed to being a leader in this regard - by offering a highly customizable, scalable solution that can leverage existing micro and paratransit services already in place, as well as advocating for expanded accessibility in underserved communities.

Let's break down barriers, build bridges, and ensure no one is left behind on the journey to justice. ✊🏼