Shoal Lake 40: Road to Reconciliation
What’s the goal?
The goal here is to collectively raise the $10 million Ottawa refuses to invest in the all-weather access road essential to the survival and viability of the people of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. It’s a road that, if built, would help make it possible for them to finally enjoy what generations of Winnipeggers have had for a century—access to clean drinking water.
Winnipeggers past and present are asked to consider the true source of ‘their’ water, and the costs to those displaced by its diversion to the city roughly 140 kilometres away. For there is no way we in Winnipeg should get to readily drink, cook and bathe with that water while the people of Shoal Lake cannot, a sad and unjust state of affairs the Free Press recently described as “an indictment of [our] indifference.”
That is why what the federal government won’t do—unlike other levels of government, who, to their credit, say they will contribute to the road’s construction—it seems we as individuals must collectively step forward and do ourselves. Think of it as an opportunity to perform a true act of reconciliation, one with the potential to give life to the recent recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An act that would help honour a debt one hundred years in the making.
Where would the $10M go?
Well, first of all, potential donors should know that this is an “all-or-nothing” campaign: that is, no one’s money will change hands unless and until every single penny of the $10,000,000 goal is pledged.
But let’s think big here and say it does happen: what then? Obviously, it’s critical to both donors and the intended beneficiaries that steps be taken to guarantee transparency and accountability if/when the goal is reached. To that end, it seems what would make most sense would be to engage a trusted third-party (a respected lawyer and/or charitable foundation, say) to receive and administer the transfer of funds for the road’s construction. Shoal Lake 40 has indicated that it already has a formal, collaborative and transparent cost-sharing arrangement with both Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg that would provide the appropriate mechanisms for handling the funding we hope to generate here. This joint “Freedom Road Project Team” is already overseeing the administration of a detailed road design.
Who is behind this crowdfunder?
“Like other long-time Winnipeggers I know, I’m disgusted, ashamed, even outraged by the fact that, while we get to take water for granted every day, Shoal Lake goes without,” says Rick.
“Basically, no water means no Winnipeg,” he adds. “Which means Winnipeg literally owes its existence to Shoal Lake 40. If we help get this access road funded, it would mean this community is one massive step closer towards their ultimate goal of a water treatment plant and, frankly, it’s the least we could do to support people who’ve given us so much.”
What does Shoal Lake 40 First Nation think of all this?
From the get-go, it was understood that the only proper way to proceed with such a campaign was to have the upfront support of the community’s leadership. Here’s what they want to state for the record:
‘Freedom Road’ is our First Nation’s goal of putting an end to the forced marginalization of our people. It’s encouraging to know that you and others share our vision of realizing a more equitable and functional relationship with the rest of Canada. While we appreciate your intentions, at the same time we wonder what kind of country Canada is when safe access to essential services, when our right to clean drinking water, when access to basic economic opportunity, must depend on the kindness of strangers?
That said, if your efforts should miraculously succeed, donors can be assured that every dollar raised would be applied under the fully accountable joint project management arrangement already in place with the governments of Manitoba and Winnipeg. Under this arrangement, every dollar is matched 2 for 1 by the other two governments.
Thank you for your support,
Chief Erwin Redsky,
Shoal Lake 40 First Nation