Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, Dennis Smook, MLA for La Verendrye on behalf of Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler, and City of Winnipeg Deputy Mayor Markus Chambers on behalf of Mayor Brian Bowman joined Chief Erwin Redsky and the people of Shoal Lake 40 as they celebrated an end to ‘isolation’ with the dedication of Freedom Road. The federal, provincial and municipal leaders were in the community to extend congratulations to everyone on the achievement of the all-weather access road.
With generations of planning and lobbying, actual construction of Freedom Road began in March 2017, under a unique, cost-shared arrangement that includes the governments of Canada, Manitoba, Winnipeg and Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. With significant participation of Shoal Lake 40 contractors and workers, construction reached the Trans-Canada Highway in October 2018 and the community was able to begin using the road in December 2018, eliminating the risks of access over water and ice. With a few final touches, the road will be completed later this month.
Freedom Road provides Shoal Lake 40 residents with year-round access to the Trans-Canada Highway, reconnecting the community to Manitoba, ending the costs and dangers of lake travel and unlocking economic opportunities.
With the guidance of the four-government Freedom Road Working Group, the jurisdictionally-complex project is on budget and on schedule-a testament to the success possible through partnerships in Indigenous-led solutions.
“Congratulations to Chief Redsky and Shoal Lake 40 on the very near completion of Freedom Road, which this community has sought and worked so hard for over the years. It is due to their skills, strength, dedication and determination that we are now seeing the conclusion of this important project. Thank you to Chief Redsky and Shoal Lake 40 for giving me the opportunity to celebrate with them today.”
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous Services
“Freedom Road is so much more than rock, sand, and asphalt. It represents the spirit, dedication and hard work of Shoal Lake 40, and a celebration of resiliency and determination. The community will now have better, more reliable access to health care, social programming and essential supplies. The community now has freedom.”
The Honourable Bob Nault, P.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Kenora
“Freedom Road comes from the efforts of generations of our people and former leaders. Sadly, some paid the ultimate price. Restoring our access to the world fixes something from the past but, we hope, with the example of success we achieved with our government partners, this project can also be the beginning of a road to reconciliation. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to our three partner governments as well as the many, many Manitobans and Canadians who supported our campaign for Freedom Road.”
Chief Erwin Redsky,
Chief, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation
“For more than a century, the residents of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation have been without an all-weather road. This project is historic, long overdue and will be transformational for the community and the people who call it home. Our government is ecstatic to be an integral part of getting this project across the finish line and are pleased to celebrate the road’s completion.”
Minister, Manitoba Infrastructure
“The completion of Freedom Road marks a significant milestone for Shoal Lake 40 and the governments of Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg. I’m proud to have supported this collective effort. As Winnipeggers, we can never forget where our water comes from and this is especially important this year when 100 years ago water first began flowing from Shoal Lake into Winnipeg’s McPhillips street reservoir.”
Mayor Brian Bowman
City of Winnipeg
Shoal Lake 40 straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border 55 km west of Kenora and a short distance south of the TransCanada Highway.
In 1914, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation was isolated from the western part of their reserve on the mainland as a result of the Greater Winnipeg Water District’s diversion of the Falcon River.
As of April 2019, the First Nation had an on-reserve registered population of 289.
The project is on schedule and on budget; with minor work such as installation of traffic signage, preparation of ditches, seeding, and construction of turning lanes to be completed by the end of June.
Under the strong leadership of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the federal, provincial and municipal governments cost-shared this project, with Indigenous Services Canada contributing $15 million and the City of Winnipeg and Province of Manitoba each contributing $7.5 million.