Timeline: Shoal Lake's long road to freedom
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)
Published Thursday, December 17, 2015 9:11PM EST
Here’s a timeline of events leading up to Thursday’s commitment from all three levels of government to fund a $30-million all-weather road connecting Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba.
1917: The First Nation community is cut off from mainland Manitoba when a nearby channel is severed in order to bring drinking water to the City of Winnipeg, about 140 kilometres away. Shoal Lake 40 is now an island.
1997: Shoal Lake 40 is placed under a water advisory after cryptosporidium is detected in the lake. Cryptosporidium can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.
2013: Ontario transportation minister writes a letter to federal counterpart, warning that plans to twin the nearby Trans-Canada highway across the Ontario-Manitoba boundary are in jeopardy, because Shoal Lake community is not supportive of the project. “It is hard to imagine how we can expect this community’s support when they remain isolated and cut off from all opportunity,” the minister writes.
January, 2014: Federal minister of aboriginal affairs, Bernard Valcourt, replies, saying that “due to overwhelming funding pressures, a formal funding commitment is not achievable at this time.”
June 2015: The City of Winnipeg offers additional funds to build required bridges, for a total of $4 million. But in a visit to the band, Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford refuses to agree to partially fund construction of the road.
Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign gets underway to pay for Ottawa’s portion of the all-weather road.
Fall 2015: During the federal election, the Liberals commit to coming up with Ottawa’s share of the cost for an all-weather road if elected.
Dec. 17, 2015: At a ceremony at the Manitoba Legislature, all three levels of government -- including the federal Liberals -- reaffirm their commitment to fund a $30-million all-weather road connecting Shoal Lake 40 reserve to the mainland. But the water advisory that began in 1997 remains in effect.