Moosonee is a small town located on the Moose River just off the coast of James Bay. Included below is a map of its location. It was settled around 1900 CE as a fur trading post for the French company Révillon Frères. It sat across the river from the much older Moose Factory. Although prosperous for a time, Moosonee and Moose Factory were unable to see much development due to their isolated location.
The twin communities of Moosonee and Moose factory now have a combined population of a little under 5,000. This number fluctuates but has a stable horizontal trend line. The majority of people in both communities are Cree people of the Moose Cree first nation. There are a number of small schools as well as a Northern College campus. Each community has a small hospital. In regard to transportation there is an Airport as well as a train station but no road access to the rest of Ontario. Below is a map of Moosonee.
The central plank of my proposal is that Moonee should be made into a major Canadian city using funding from the Canadian and Ontario governments. There are two major reasons that I believe this to be a good idea. The first is that Moosonee is located in an extremely strategic location for economic and administrative development of Canada’s north. The second reason is that it can represent an opportunity for Cree people to thrive, not only economically but also culturally.
Beginning with the first argument, Moosonee is the perfect location for a Panamax port. A Panamax port is a deep-water port capable of accommodating a Panamax ship. Canada currently has 15 Panamax ports and only one in the Arctic Ocean region (Churchill). Moosonee is currently Ontario’s only saltwater port. Thus the port could be used not only as a place for arctic ships to be based out of, but also as Ontario’s major oceanic port. It would be a gateway to the arctic and Ontario at the same time.
Moosonee also has the friendliest climate of Hudson/James Bay communities. Its annual average temperature is -0.5C and the July average high is 22.6C. Not warm by any standard but definitely liveable. It’s the same temperature as the Mongolian capital which has over one million people.
Lastly, its central location is very useful for logistics. The fact that it is located in the centre of Northern Ontario and Quebec means it can be a useful hub for medical services, education, freight, and general transportation.
The second point, to reiterate, was the opportunity it represents to the Cree people. For a long time, first nations in Canada have suffered. And this is no different for the Cree first nations. They deal with underemployment, alcoholism, and high levels of crime, all of which has resulted from a number of historical events. Additionally, they seek to keep their culture alive in a country where they are an extremely small minority. All of these problems can be partially or completely solved with a specific solution.
The solution is cities. The way to keep a language alive is to have it be the major language of a city or multiple cites. The way to expand the economy and drive down unemployment is to build and expand cites. The examples of economies growing and cultures being preserved is massive. From Barcelona to Chennai cities are the solution.
Thus the idea is to make Moosonee into the first major First Nations city. Moosonee is a prime location for a Cree city. It is located in the centre of the Cree region. This is useful not only for logistics but also language. The Cree language forms a continuum from the East coast to the western Prairies. Swampy Cree, the dialect of Moose factory, is right in the centre of this continuum and is therefore the easiest for everyone to learn. Additionally, the Moose Cree area is one of the warmest of the Cree regions.
The actual implementation of my proposal would be a series of steps by the Governments of Canada, Ontario, and Cree first nations to develop and build the city. The first step would a meeting between the above governments to discuss the process and ultimately come to an agreement. The next step would be to designate Moosonee, Moose Factory, and the surrounding area as a single municipality. Infrastructure such as a highway from the rest of Ontario and a Panamax port would be constructed to get things started. Finally, the governments would work together to bring together the final ingredient: people.
People are to be brought in using three methods. The first is government projects. The governments of Ontario and Canada would bring in workers to build the public infrastructure and to work in the public services. The second method is to bring as many Cree people as possible. This is key; if Moosonee is to be a centre of Cree culture there has to be more Cree people than non-Cree people in order to allow the language and culture to flourish. The primary process for this would be relocation funded by the Canadian government. Relocation by the federal government has a bad reputation but in this instance it would be voluntary relocation to a relatively hospitable climate filled with thousands of other Cree people building a new city together. The final method would be economic migrants from other parts of Canada as well as the world. There is the caveat that ideally they would learn Cree once they arrive but this is not a new thing. Altogether, the city could be filled with people in a very short amount of time.
To conclude I will provide some ideas I had about the specifics of the city. The city could build a world class Cree University. Buildings, especially public and cultural buildings, could be built using architecture that references Cree culture (like the Moose Factory lodge pictured above). Being on a river a number of bridges could be built. The military could put a Canadian Forces Base there that makes use of the arctic port. The downtown could be built from scratch to include state of the art underground connecting tunnels like Toronto and/or indoor pedestrian one story high bridges like Calgary. These would help keep the downtown alive during the winter months. The city would ideally have a population greater than 100,000 after 10 years, 500,000 after 20 years, and 1,000,000 after 30 years.