Students working toward Shoal Lake 40 support in Winnipeg
KAYLA LAWSON, CONTRIBUTOR
Daryl Redsky, chief of the Shoal Lake 40 fire department, witnessed two homes burn down in his community. There was nothing he could do.
A brand new fire truck is useless to him without access to water and proper infrastructure, and the weight of the fire truck is too heavy to travel on the swampy earth, even when it’s empty.
Because of stories like Redsky’s, committees like Students for Freedom Road and Friends of Shoal Lake 40 have formed to raise awareness and continue discussions of what can be done for the community.
Students for Freedom Road organized a panel discussion held at the University of Winnipeg on Nov. 4. The panel included Redsky and also welcomed Cuyler Cotton, a policy analyst for Shoal Lake, and city Couns. Cindy Gilroy to advocate for the importance of Freedom Road.
“Right now we’re focused on awareness. We want people to talk and show support. We’re encouraging people to write to their councillors,” said Jon Benson, a member of the Students for Freedom Road committee.
Benson visited Shoal Lake 40 in October. He went on a tour and saw the dike that was built to carry water to Winnipeg.
“Half the water was brown and murky and on the other side of the filter it was crystal clear,” said Benson. “They can’t have a water treatment plant without a road. The ferry can only hold up to three regular vehicles.”
The ferry was declared unfit for travel earlier this year. The community can’t afford to fully repair the ferry. Even if they could, the ferry can’t transport the tools required to provide Shoal Lake 40 with a water treatment plant, making Freedom Road that much more important.
“Freedom Road is becoming a symbol for bridging the gap between people. As settlers, we need to ask ourselves, how can we be allies?” said Samantha Klassen, a Canadian Mennonite University student who helped start the Friends of Shoal Lake 40 committee.
The newly formed coalition is trying to increase pressure on the City of Winnipeg to include Freedom Road in its December budget.
Members of Friends of Shoal Lake 40 said they’re organizing a trip to Shoal Lake 40 with city councillors to help them see the importance of the issue.
First Nation leadership will host a tour of the community, so the councillors can witness how the people have struggled as a result of Winnipeg’s water division. This might further the growing support for our city’s reconciliation with Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.