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People Wept After A Minister Refused To Support A Road For Their First Nations Community

They have been without a road for a century.

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The Manitoba First Nations community of Shoal Lake 40 has been without road access since 1914. Residents have to use a boat or take a ferry to get to the mainland.

Over the years, people have died while trying to make the trip.
ctvnews.ca

Over the years, people have died while trying to make the trip.

A century ago the community was turned into a man-made island so the lake could supply water to nearby Winnipeg.

Winnipeg - got water, thanks shoal lake

They have been cut off from the mainland ever since. Shoal Lake also does not have its own reliable source of water.

The community has been under a boil water advisory for close to 18 years, one of the longest in Canada.

They thought their isolation was coming to an end yesterday when all three levels of government arrived in the community. The expectation was the federal government would announce its willingness to fund a road project.

Major turnout at #ShoalLake40 for the #FreedomRoad event. All 3 levels of gov't were present, many #Winnipeg allies.

The city of Winnipeg and province already committed to the project. People were all smiles and expectation.

Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford, who is also the MP for the riding that includes Shoal Lake 40, arrived and surprised many by only mentioning a previously announced $1 million commitment for a design study of the road.

The road will cost an estimated $30 million.
ctvnews.ca

The road will cost an estimated $30 million.

When pressed on whether the government would support the road, he declined to answer questions. "We've made a clear commitment today," he said. "I have no further comment."

A reporter also asked him "if he had anything to say to the children about the road," according to the Canadian Press. Rickford's response: "Hi guys."
ctvnews.ca

A reporter also asked him "if he had anything to say to the children about the road," according to the Canadian Press.

Rickford's response: "Hi guys."

Former Shoal Lake 40 Chief Stewart Redsky broke into tears when he spoke at the gathering.

"For 100 years, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has had to pay so Winnipeg could get fresh water," he said. "Our people need an answer today. Our people deserve an answer today."

Current Chief Erwin Redsky said the lack of a road for his community means his people will not support a government plan to expand the Trans-Canada Highway.

"Canada is not going to get four lanes thorough our territory if we're not going to get our road. I made that clear to the minister today," he told CBC.

Shoal Lake 40 has had a boil water advisory for nearly 18 years. But it is not the longest such advisory in Canada, as this post originally said.

Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at craig.silverman@buzzfeed.com.

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