Shoal Lake 40 First Nation got good news before Christmas: the promise of a $30-million road connecting the reserve hard by the Ontario-Manitoba boundary to the Trans-Canada Highway about 15 kilometres away.
The promise corrects an old injustice. Almost a century ago, when the growing city of Winnipeg needed drinking water, Shoal Lake was identified as the source. A canal was built, creating an island on which Shoal Lake 40 was located.
Thereby isolated, band members needed a boat to reach the mainland or an ice road in the winter. The reserve also lacked a water-treatment plant. Bottled water had to be shipped by barge or across the road. Shoal Lake 40 has been under a drinking-water advisory for 17 years.
As sometimes happens, interaboriginal rivalries or feuds stalled solutions to Shoal Lake’s situation. Negotiations for a water-treatment plant’s location foundered with the nearby Iskatewizaagegan First Nation. That group also imposes tariffs on anyone trying to reach Shoal Lake 40 through its lands.
The new road – dubbed the “Freedom Road” – will bypass the Iskatewizaagegan lands and help the residents of Shoal Lake 40 get much easier access to Kenora to the east and Winnipeg to the west.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/globe-politics-insider/are-isolated-reserves-too-small-to-succeed/article28061327/