School bus donation a boon to Tuktoyaktuk

Sr. Fay Trombley

Sr. Fay Trombley

May 16, 2011

TUKTOYAKTUK, NWT — Through the assistance of Edmonton Catholic Schools, some transportation difficulties will be eased for Canada's northernmost mainland community.

A devout Catholic family in Vancouver, who wish to remain anonymous, donated a school bus that will be used in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

The bus will prove useful for taking people to and from church, transporting seniors on social outings, taking youth to attend sporting events, and fulfilling other community needs.

Sister Fay Trombley, a Sister of Charity of the Immaculate Conception, has been stationed in Tuktoyaktuk for six years.

Since last summer she has been pondering her leadership role at the mission church, Our Lady of Grace. She started looking at the people's needs, and what she could do to lessen their burdens. She identified reliable transportation as the number one priority.


While the hamlet's population is about 1,000, Tuktoyaktuk is accessible only by plane in the summer and by treacherously icy roads in the winter.

Homes are spread out and built mainly in the highlands to avoid flooding when the snow melts. Many Catholic families live a great distance from the church, and they do not own vehicles. Some children do not attend school because they live too far away.

Without reliable transportation, elders cannot go on berry-picking excursions and youth cannot play sports. There is only one taxi in town.

"I thought maybe there would be a greater attendance at church or make it possible for more children to come to religion classes if we had a vehicle that could pick up anyone who didn't have some sort of transportation, which is most of the people," said Trombley.

In an even worse situation were the residents of nearby Reindeer Point, about a 45-minute walk from Tuk.

"One of the things we could do to really address our needs was to get a small vehicle. At the time I was thinking of a small bus, maybe a van," said Trombley, a retired professor of spiritual theology at Newman Theological College.


She knows Kevin Carr from his years as president of Newman College. His wife, Joan Carr, is the superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools.

After contacting the couple, and sharing Tuk's needs with them, her request for information was passed onto Boris Radyo, assistant superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools.

Radyo, through the school division's transportation services department, researched what kind of bus would suitable for the community, how one goes about purchasing one, as well as licensing and insurance requirements.

"We provided Sister Fay with the initial information about, for example, gasoline vs. diesel engines for a northern climate, about heavy-duty batteries and alternators, about the size of bus that would be most suitable, and potential costs to run it," said Radyo.

"We provided that information, and then an offer came to us."

One of the carriers, Southland Transportation, instead of providing the information that was requested, stepped forward and provided the bus. The 24-passenger bus is a 2007, in excellent condition, and Radyo estimated its value at more than $50,000.


"Edmonton Catholic picked up on this project to try and help us out up here. They found a family from Vancouver who want to remain anonymous, but would donate a bus for our needs in Tuk, which is just astounding," said Trombley.

Through the generosity of the family and Southland Transportation, the community now has a new bus to meet the needs of the people. The bus was towed on a flatbed from Calgary to Edmonton and along the Dempster Highway to Tuk. It arrived on Palm Sunday.

"We are still in need of drivers. At this point, in our very small parish family, there is no one with a Class 4 driver's licence, so that is something that we have to work on," said Trombley.