Guy St. Julien, MP for Abitibi, announced on May 6th, 2003 on behalf of Transport Minister David Collenette the release of federal funding up to a maximum of $ 1,537,000 for two projects to improve safety at Chisasibi Airport under the federal government’s Airports Capital Assistance Program.

The projects are part of a total of nearly $4.8 million in funding recently approved for ten safety improvement projects at seven airports in Quebec.

“In addition to meeting safety requirements, the financial contribution provided by Transport Canada will help to improve year-round access for people and supplies in this isolated community in Nunavik,” said St-Julien.

The Chisasibi project, which will receive funding up to $ 1,135,000, includes the construction of a shelter for heavy vehicles and a sand storage building. It also includes the building of a perimeter fence to control the access of people, vehicles, and animals to airport facilities.

The second project, which will receive funding up to $402,000, includes the purchase of a wheel-mounted loader with a snow blower to remove snow from the runway. The improvements will help to maintain the safety and efficiency of Chisasibi Airport.

The Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) is part of the National Airports Policy, which was announced in July, 1994. Under the ACAP, which officially began on April 1, 1995 and renewed in June 2000, airports may apply for funding towards capital projects related to safety, asset protection, and operating cost reduction. To be eligible, they must receive regularly scheduled passenger service, meet airport certification requirements and not be owned by the federal government.

Since 1995, the government has announced a total of approximately $37 million for 26 safety improvement projects under ACAP at 12 airports in Quebec.

“ACAP is an example of the Government of Canada directing infrastructure resources to where they are most needed and can best enhance safety,” added Collenette. “This program is just one way the government -through the National Airports Policy—seeks to ensure a safe, efficient, and affordable airport system to serve Canadians well into the future.”

The safety improvement projects at Chisasibi Airport complement Gathering Strength, Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, which is an initiative of the federal government to promote partnership with Aboriginal people.

Brian Craik, spokesman for the Grand Council of the Crees (GCC), said “the airport is very important to the people of Chisasibi, especially for medical evacuations. It’s also important in situations where people have to travel south, and weather conditions are bad or it’s difficult to travel, you have the option of taking a plane.”

“It also keeps the communication between communities open. People can travel from Whapmagoostui down the coast, and that’s important for the people” (to stay in touch with one another).

Chisasibi Airport has been operated by the Chisasibi Band Council since 1979. Regularly scheduled air passenger service is provided at the airport. It handles approximately 5,000 passengers a year.

Funding for the projects was provided for in the federal budget and is built into the existing financial framework.