Shoal Lake's Freedom Road to become reality


Last updated 1/17/2016 at 7:52pm

Freedom Road Churches

After years of discussions, broken promises and failure to commit, the First Nations community of Shoal Lake 40 will finally be getting their long-promised "Freedom Road," which will make this inefficient and often unreliable ferry unnecessary. Thanks to the efforts of political leaders, artists, and churches, this community will be permanently connected to the outside world.

SHOAL LAKE, ON-The residents of Shoal Lake 40 First Nations got an early Christmas present. Well, it's more a promise of one to come in the first part of the New Year.

After many years of political discussions, broken promises, and outright refusal to commit, Canada's government agreed to pay for one-third of the cost of building an all-weather road to the Shoal Lake First Nation. This decision and the eventual completion of the road will bring to a close many years of virtual isolation for this remote community.

The Indigenous Affairs Minister, the Premier of Manitoba, Winnipeg's mayor, and the Chief of Shoal Lake First Nations, announced that they have all agreed to cooperate on building a $30-million access road which has been called "Freedom Road". Construction is scheduled to begin early this year and the just over 16 mile (26 kilometer) road will be completed in 2017, connecting Shoal Lake to the Trans-Canada Highway.

There is a long history between Shoal Lake, Ontario and Winnipeg. One hundred years ago, an aquaduct was built to provide Winnipeg with clean drinking water but the contruction left the First Nations community of Shoal Lake 40 cut off and without clean water.

I n recent years, support has grown over this great injustice in that Winnipeg gets clean water for her people from the same water source as Shoal Lake, however, it has cut off the First Nations community from access to clean water as well as isolated them for almost two decades.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman have all said there is a moral obligation to rectify the situation.

Thanks to the support and work of other First Nations communities as well as people like singer/songwriter Steve Bell, along with former Winnipeg MP Joy Smith, dozens of churches in Manitoba and Ontario known as "Churches in Support of Freedom Road," the critical need was brought to the attention of political leaders. Because there was an election last fall, the federal government did not want to make a commitment. Following the election of Prime Minister Trudeau, his government gave the green light for supporting construction of this crucial road.


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