Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shoal Lake Reserve Residents Weep as Ottawa Balks at Funding Road Construction

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shoal Lake Reserve Residents Weep as Ottawa Balks at Funding Road Construction

Article excerpt

Aboriginals weep as Ottawa balks at funding road

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SHOAL LAKE, Man. - Residents of a First Nation under one of Canada's longest boil-water advisories wept Thursday after the federal government refused to commit to help fund the construction of a road connecting the community with the outside world.

Both Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg announced a commitment Thursday to fund part of the cost of a permanent, all-weather road for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which straddles the Ontario-Manitoba boundary.

But Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford refused to say whether Ottawa would put up its share of the cost during a ceremony on the reserve and left community members openly sobbing with disappointment.

Instead, he reiterated the federal government's $1-million pledge to a design study for the project.

"We've made a clear commitment today," Rickford, the MP for the area said, as children holding signs asking for a federal commitment to build the road walked behind him. "I have no further comment."

When asked if he had anything to say to the children about the road, he said: "Hi guys."

The reserve was cut off from the mainland a century ago when an aqueduct was built to supply Winnipeg with fresh water.

While clean water flows down the aqueduct, murky water is diverted to the First Nation. It has been under a boil-water advisory for 17 years and has no all-weather road connecting it to the mainland.

Rickford left the announcement while Stewart Redsky wept in frustration as he spoke to people gathered in the community.

"For 100 years, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has had to pay so Winnipeg could get fresh water," Redsky said. "Our people need an answer today. Our people deserve an answer today."

The community's problems got worse earlier this year when its aging ferry didn't pass federal inspection. The reserve -- with no way for people to get groceries, water or immediate medical attention -- declared a state of emergency. …

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