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Canada commits funds for Freedom Road


December 17, 2015
By Andrew Macklin


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December 17, 2015 – Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett announced that the Government of Canada will be an equal partner with the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to ensure Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation constructs Freedom Road.

Minister Bennett stated that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will match the Province of Manitoba’s and the City of Winnipeg’s commitments to fund one-third of the estimated $30 million project to construct an approximately 24-kilometre all-season road from Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation to the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba. The announcement was made at a meeting of the Shoal Lake No. 40 Tripartite Agreement Committee at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg.

“Partnering with the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to help Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation build Freedom Road is both long overdue,” said Bennett. “When completed, Freedom Road will provide the First Nation’s residents with increased mobility and help unlock economic opportunities for the community.”

All three levels of government already committed up to $1 million each for the design work of Freedom Road. That work is underway and is expected to be completed in spring 2016.

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“We welcome the Government of Canada to our partnership with the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to finally secure the access we have lacked for so long,” said chief Erwin Redsky of the Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation. “Our situation is unique and requires creative problem-solving. We thank the governments of Canada, Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg for their commitments and their willingness to collaborate with our community.”

Shoal Lake No. 40 is a First Nation community that straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border and has an on-reserve population of about 290 people. The First Nation was cut off from the mainland in 1917 when a nearby channel was cut in order to bring drinking water to the City of Winnipeg. The First Nation has long sought a permanent all-weather road to provide the community with secure and constant access to essential services, including emergency medical services and waste collection.

Freedom Road will also increase the community’s access to economic development opportunities, such as eco-tourism ventures, and lower the costs of future construction projects.