Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Leo Friday says Indigenous organizations shouldn’t have to express outrage in order to get government to fulfil its promises to provide health-care services for First Nations.

Lynne Innes, president and CEO of Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, received a letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, June 5, affirming the federal government’s commitment to support a new hospital and health-care campus in Moosonee which would replace the current 74-year-old Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory.

The letter was received the day before a press conference was being held in Moose Factory in response to the hospital project being omitted from the 2024-25 federal budget.

“Once again, we are forced to call on the government to reaffirm their complete commitment to fund 45 per cent of the total cost of this project,” Grand Chief Friday stated at Thursday’s press conference. “We shouldn’t have to resort to this.”

Under the agreement, the provincial government would provide the other 55 per cent of the cost.

Innes said the omission in the federal budget, passed on May 1, caught everyone who had been working on the project by surprise.

“It wasn’t a risk or something that we foresaw,” said Innes. “We met with the federal government weekly for the last 15 months and at no time, were we led to believe that we weren’t going to be a part of the federal budget.”

Innes said the omission in the federal budget “impacted our construction. We were hoping for a start date of August, but we’ve surpassed that, we’ve missed that deadline. We are hoping to get started late fall but that’s all contingent on our funding partners.”

While the letter from the Prime Minister offered some measure of reassurance, Innes said Trudeau’s letter was short on details.

“In the coming days and weeks, I will seek clarity from the federal government on specific timelines and financial details associated with this commitment to ensure the next phase of construction can begin without further delay,” she said.

Thursday’s press conference was attended by hospital staff and board members, as well as several local leaders including Moose Cree Chief Peter Wesley, Moosonee Mayor Wayne Taipale and Allan Jolly, chief of MoCreebec, an association representing descendants of Cree families from the Québec side of James Bay who have settled in northern Ontario.

Innes led the dignitaries on a tour of the Weeneebayko General Hospital just prior to the press conference. She explained the facility was built in 1950 as a tuberculosis sanitorium and stands as the “oldest unrenovated hospital in Canada.”

Grand Chief Friday commended Innes and her staff for the “remarkable job” they have done at “keeping this place open, safe and accessible.”

He added, “In no other place in Canada would an institution like this be acceptable. The conditions that our people have to receive care in and that our providers have to work in would not be acceptable.”

It was announced at the press conference Thursday that a rally will be held on June 19 at Parliament Hill. This will mark the second time in less than a month that Mushkegowuk leaders have gathered in Ottawa to demonstrate their support for the hospital redevelopment project.

Moose Cree Chief Wesley was among those who attended the previous event held on May 27.

“At our last press conference, I invited you (Prime Minister Trudeau) to come to our community to see the hospital for yourself,” said Wesley. “I have not received a response to that invitation … We need you to step up and honour your promise to your treaty partners. This is a treaty issue, and it requires a treaty table between treaty partners. Canada, you’re still missing. Where are you? We need you to speak up, we need you to be here, we need you to honour your commitment.”

For media inquiries, contact

Ron Grech Communications, Mushkegowuk Counci

Elizabeth McCarthy Director of Strategy and Communications, WAHA