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The national organization that represents Inuit in Canada is calling for air transportation to be designated an essential service in Canada’s 51 Inuit communities for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) president Natan Obed says flights services in the North have already been “drastically reduced” due to increasingly strict travel restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Some commercial routes between northern communities and southern urban centres have been completely suspended.

This is having a major impact on communities that rely heavily on air transport for many essential needs.

“We don’t have roads, we don’t have railways, we don’t have this essential network to get goods and services to and from places to support the base level of needs in our communities and airlines do that for us in a very different way than airlines have supported southern Canadians,” Obed said.

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Flights are the only way food, medicine and other essential supplies can get to all but two of Canada’s northern Inuit communities in the winter and spring, which means these communities are deeply reliant on air links for survival.

Air transportation is also required to take patients who need advanced medical treatment to urban hospitals as many Inuit communities do not have doctors, emergency medical services or hospitals of their own.

Now that daily flights for medical patients have been reduced to a few flights a week in some areas,

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