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Nickel Belt MPP again tables bill to fix gaps in Northern Ontario 911 system

Many Northern Ontario communities still do not have access to 911, France Gélinas says
911 emergency
(Stock)

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas is reintroducing a bill to the legislature she says will save lives by ensuring that every Ontarian has access to 911.

The bill has two main goals. 

The first goal is to do away with 1-800 numbers in case of emergency, and change to 911 everywhere in Ontario. The technology exists, it is cheap and has been done in most other provinces, she said.

Secondly, the bill will give the Ombudsman the responsibility to investigate complaints against the 911 system.

“We have an opportunity to save lives,” said Gélinas in a news release. “Most people believe that in case of emergency you can call for help by dialing 911 no matter where you are in Ontario.” Unfortunately, every year people find out the hard way that many Northern Ontario communities do not have access to 911. 

“Instead people need to remember a 1-800 number that differs across regions. So people in distress call 911, and hear that the number is not in service. They call the operator who tells them to dial 911. This has had fatal consequences. Not one more person in Ontario should die because they do not have access to 911.”

The NDP used the story of one Northern Ontario resident to illustrate how the gaps in 911 are impacting Northerners. Helena Shepherd-Snider said she had trouble reaching emergency services while her husband was having a heart attack.

"The operator did not know what to do when every moment counted,” Shepherd-Snider said in the release. “Over the past three years, we have devoted countless hours to this overwhelming problem, which has caused our family undue stress and anxiety. This has got to change. Everyone in Ontario expects, requires and deserves access to 911.”

Gélinas said this is an opportunity to improve the system this doesn’t happen again.

“This law will also help people regain confidence in this critical service, by having the ombudsman investigate when things don’t work out with our 911 system.”