$30 million Shoal Lake reserve “Freedom Road” to end a century’s isolation

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Canada’s new indigenous affairs minister says the isolated Shoal Lake 40 reserve will finally receive a $30 million all weather road, after almost a century of isolation and boil water conditions.

Carolyn Bennett says the federal government is committed to linking the reserve on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary, cut off a century ago to build a freshwater aqueduct to Winnipeg.

Surveyors said at the time that the land was largely uninhabited “with the exception of a few Indians.”

While clean water continues to flow to the Manitoba capital, the reserve of several hundred people has been under a boil water advisory for 18 years, published reports say. The Liberal government is committed to ending that injustice, Bennett said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“This is a serious commitment and it will happen,” she said.

“So many of these issues are no longer indigenous issues. These are Canadian issues about our values and principles and how we can go forward in a good way.”

In the summer, the First Nation depends on an aging ferry to get to the mainland, but the vessel failed government inspection last year. Residents use a treacherous ice road in the winter and people have died falling through the ice.

The Manitoba government has already introduced a legislative bill to give it legal authority to help fund construction of a permanent road.

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