In 2016, the Northern Policy Institute partnered with the Northern Ontario Workforce Planning Board to release their report; Northern Projections: Human Capital Series. This report highlights the contrasts between urban and rural populations in the Thunder Bay District and serves to provide data that supports what one can see while driving through this part of northwestern Ontario along MOM’s Way.
MOM’s Way is an acronym for Manitoba, Ontario, and Minnesota and includes portions of Manitoba Highway 12, Minnesota State Highway 313, Minnesota State Highway 11, Minnesota State Highway 72 and Ontario Highway 11. As Northern Projections reports, Thunder Bay district’s population declined by 3 percent between 2001 and 2011. While the overall population of the district declined, the urban population increased whereas the rural population declined. This urban migration has impacted rural schools in the Thunder Bay district as enrollment has declined.
In several instances, in the western portion of the Thunder Bay district, schools have closed and those populations have been consolidated with nearby schools. In 2005, a report completed by an independent auditor for the Ministry of Education identified a number of schools that have experienced a decline in enrolment and would subsequently close with those students being consolidated into “neighboring districts.” For some of these communities, such as Finmark, Shabaqua, Kaministiquia and Shebandowan, the closure of the Four Way School in Sunshine increased the commute time for students by 20 minutes or more in most cases to the Kakabeka Falls School.
During my time in rural areas of Northwestern Ontario, I noticed a number of practical and creative bus shelters. For this photo project, I documented bus shelters in the western portion of the unorganized Thunder Bay District. These shelters are predominately used during the winter months, where the average January high/low temperature is about -8/-21C (18/-5F). However, I was always particularly fond of the color contrast with these structures and the landscape during the summer months, when not in use. These photos were taken in the communities of Sunshine, Conmee, Sistonens Corners, Jelly, Kaministiquia, Finmark and Oliver Paipoonge along a stretch of MOM’s Way. Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR Lens: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
References: BUREAU, CARL CLUTCHEY, NORTH SHORE. “8 out of 11 Northern Ontario Districts Have Experienced a Population Decline.” The Chronicle-Journal. Accessed November 9, 2018. http://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/local/out-of-northern-ontario-districts-have-experienced-a-population-decline/article_9cb6b16a-cc48-11e8-b0da-eba0f947cb92.html. Cooke, David. “Independent Facilitator Report - Review of the Lakehead DSB School Closure Decisions,” n.d., 9. “MOM’s Way.” Wikipedia, March 10, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=MOM%27s_Way&oldid=829773539. “Northern Policy Institute - Two solitudes in Thunder Bay District? Urban or extremely rural.” Accessed November 9, 2018 .https://www.northernpolicy.ca/upload/documents/news-releases/en-press-release-thunder-bay-district-09.pdf. Press, Nicole Thompson The Canadian. “Rural School Closures Hit Some Communities Hard, Main Parties Pledge Action.” The Chronicle-Journal. Accessed October 31, 2018. http://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/national/rural-school-closures-hit-some-communities-hard-main-parties-pledge/article_132a0898-3426-5601-b928-1b842ff7496b.html. “Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay :: School Zones.” Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay. Accessed October 31, 2018. https://www.ststb.ca/en/schools/school-zones.