Shoal Lake residents weep as feds balk at funding road construction
Published Thursday, June 25, 2015 5:35PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 25, 2015 8:44PM EDT
Although two provincial governments and the City of Winnipeg have committed to build an estimated $30-million road linking a Manitoba first nation to the outside world, the federal government will only commit to studying the project.
Community elder Grace Redsky from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation performed a water healing ceremony at a man-made channel made to support Winnipeg's water system which has cut them off from the mainland Thursday, June 25, 2015. (John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Locals in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation were so disappointed when Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford merely reiterated a previous $1-million commitment to a design study that some of them shed tears.
Stewart Redsky was among those visibly upset. "For 100 years, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has had to pay so Winnipeg could get fresh water," he said. "Our people deserve an answer today."
Shoal Lake 40, on the border of Ontario and Manitoba, declared a state of emergency earlier this year after the ferry that linked it to other communities was shut down.
Not only were people cut off from medical care and grocery stores, they had no way to bring in the bottled water the community has relied on ever since a boil water advisory was put in place 17 years ago.
The Ojibway community was moved to a man-made island 100 years ago so that Winnipeg could draw clean drinking water. Shoal Lake residents were left with water so dirty that weeds sometimes come through the taps.
A boy from the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation sits on a bridge over a man-made channel made to support Winnipeg's water system. (John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
As part of their treaty agreement 100 years ago, the First Nation had asked for an all-weather road and bridge to be built. The water treatment plant cannot easily be built without a road.
The City of Winnipeg has offered $4 million Thursday to build required bridges, even though it would not normally be the city’s responsibility.
Ontario and Manitoba said they would do their part to construct a road, but expect the federal government to fund a portion of the project.
Federal natural resources minister Greg Rickford walked away from reporters and refused to answer their questions in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation Thursday, June 25, 2015. (John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Lorne Redsky said he hopes the road gets built for the sake of his wife and five children, but he’s seen governments break promises before.
“We’re supposed to have a water plant already, but once a new government came into play we got put back on the waiting list, we had to get re-evaluated and everything had to be put on hold,” he said.
Chief Edwin Redsky, meanwhile, suggested he would block the $100-million twinning of the nearby Trans-Canada Highway if Shoal Lake doesn’t get a road.
"Canada is not going to get four lanes through our territory if we're not going to get our road,” the chief said. “I made that clear to the minister today.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg and files from The Canadian Press