Lessons From Bono and George Bush re: Shoal Lake 40 Freedom Road

Lessons From Bono and George Bush re: Shoal Lake 40 Freedom Road

Here’s the story as I heard it… At the height of the AIDS crisis over a decade ago, Bono met with George W. Bush asking him to commit a rather large amount of money to help in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Apparently President Bush was sincerely empathetic and agreed that the U.S. should do something significant, but informed Bono that he couldn’t just unilaterally write a cheque.  He suggested, however, that if Bono would go out and create a demonstration of public support for such a move, President Bush then could, and would, respond to the public demonstration. Shortly afterward, Christian music producer Charlie Peacock received a call from Bono asking him to gather the top, most influential Christian musicians in his living room for a meeting.  A week or so later, several somewhat startled and disbelieving artists met at Charlie Peacock’s home in Nashville, and sure enough, Bono showed up, sang them a couple of songs, then explained the situation and asked them to mobilize their fan bases in support of the U.S. getting behind the AIDS crisis.  Bono then took time with individual musicians to help strategize how they could best mobilize their fan bases. The short story is that the musicians did just that, and created such a public outcry that when the next budget came out, President Bush committed significantly more money to the fight than Bono had asked for in the first place. So here’s what I learned from this story: 1. Politicians often want to do what’s right, but given limitations of budgets and competing claims for those funds, they really do need the public to speak out—not acrimoniously, but simply...
Petition to City of Winnipeg

Petition to City of Winnipeg

BUILD FREEDOM ROAD: It’s the right thing to do! To: His Worship Mayor Brian Bowman and Winnipeg City Councillors (Marty Morantz, Matt Allard, Jeff Browaty, Shawn Dobson, Ross Eadie, Jenny Gerbasi, Scott Gillingham, Cindy Gilroy, Janice Lukes, Brian Mayes, John Orlikow, Mike Pagtakhan, Jason Schreyer, Devi Sharma, Russ Wyatt) With the recent election of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Government, it is evident that official announcement of federal funds for the construction of Freedom Road is just around the corner; post-election conversations with various MPs confirm this. At the provincial level, the Manitoba is taking creative, pro-active steps in concert with Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to ensure that Provincial commitments to construction can flow upon completion of the road design in January. Premier Selinger is prepared to make this announcement. Funding to begin construction upon completion of the road design must be in place by January 2016. It seems that the last one standing as a possible obstacle to this is the City of Winnipeg. This petition is to respectfully let our city’s Mayor and councillors know there is strong public support for our city to commit to construction of Freedom Road so there will be no further, unnecessary delays. There is sure to be a joint public announcement / celebration of the Federal and Provincial commitment to actually construct Freedom Road and build the path to reconciliation. Our City and our citizens will be more than embarrassed if we are not able to live up to our side of the bargain. Please help us ensure that this important redress of a century-long injustice can soon begin, signalling, as well, a deeply symbolic and intentional shift in relations between First Nations and Canadian Settler...
Give Thanks

Give Thanks

When I was 18, I spent two months in Haiti helping to build a medical clinic. One of the first things I did when I got home was to go to our kitchen faucet and marvel at the clean water flowing out of it. Clean water is something we generally take for granted…unless we don’t have it. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you and your loved ones to thank our Creator for our fresh water supply. As you do that, will you also remember our neighbours at Shoal Lake 40 First Nation who do not share that same privilege? You might want to thank them as well. Mention it in prayer, church signs, casual conversation, etc.  Don’t worry, God will tell you how to do it. Happy Thanksgiving! Rev. Rick Hill Elim Chapel, Winnipeg “give thanks in all circumstances” 1 Thessalonians...
Freedom Road MP Candidate Survey

Freedom Road MP Candidate Survey

For those who would like to consider the issue of Freedom Road in their decision-making for the upcoming Federal election, we surveyed the candidates for Manitoba and South-Western Ontario to ask if they would personally pledge their support for the building of a provincial grade all-weather road linking Shoal Lake 40 First Nation with the Trans-Canada Highway.  We sent two emails over the span of 3 weeks, and followed up with a phone call, to ensure each candidate had a chance to respond. Below are the results, sorted by party and then riding. This post will continue to be updated as we receive more responses. It’s also important to note that Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party), Thomas Mulcair (NDP) and Elizabeth May (Green Party) have all indicated their party’s support for this cause. As of yet we have been unable to locate an official response online from Mr. Harper personally, but the Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford has stated Conservative party support “in principle” without clarification of the term.  Local singer-songwriter Steve Bell also sent an open letter to Stephen Harper, Greg Rickford, and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt on August 4th, but has yet to receive a response. CONSERVATIVE PARTY Larry Maguire (Brandon-Souris): No response The Honourable Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia-Headingley): No response Robert Sopuck (Dauphin Swan River Neepawa): No response Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona): “Thank you for contacting me in relation to the building of an all-weather road to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. I fully support a federal commitment of $1 million dollars to fund the design costs for the First Nations Freedom Road Project. Once completed, this design study...
A Road to Set Us All Free

A Road to Set Us All Free

Republished with permission from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2015 A15 (except photos, which are courtesy of Moses Falco) A road to set us all free by Dave Angus, President of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce “Our bodies are made up of nearly 80 per cent water. That means there’s Shoal Lake in all Winnipeggers.” These were the parting words shared by Chief Erwin Redsky with our small Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce delegation to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation last week. I cannot think of a more powerful connection between communities. We were there to discuss economic opportunities between our two communities. But it doesn’t take a genius on economic development to figure out that without efficient, safe and reliable access into the community, there is not much to talk about in terms of economic potential. Connectivity is the economic lifeblood of any community, and investment in Freedom Road to empower Shoal Lake 40 First Nations is long overdue. Chief Redsky taught us a great deal about the magnitude of historical challenges his community has faced during the last 100 years. There was a time when, as part of the mainland, the community was completely self-sufficient. But through the expropriation of 3,000 acres of land by the City of Winnipeg, the picturesque peninsula of Shoal Lake 40 was amputated, literally cut off by the digging of a channel designed to keep dirty water separate from the clean water that flows to Winnipeg. After relegation to a self-made island came the closing of the commercial fishery by the Ontario government, the flooding out of any potential of...
FAQ – SHOAL LAKE 40 FREEDOM ROAD

FAQ – SHOAL LAKE 40 FREEDOM ROAD

Q: Why is this initiative so important, especially post-Truth and Reconciliation report? A: Canadians have spent the last few years hearing and absorbing the painful truth of First Nations/settler relations over the past several hundred years, but the hard road of reconciliation still lies ahead. Recovery of the true kinship—from which derives the word “kind”—that was understood at the onset of this relationship will take a lot of time and some very clear gestures of reparation. This particular instance is deeply symbolic in that it involves a road and a bridge: a road to reconciliation and a bridge over troubled waters. These two metaphors are rich with symbolic potential, but the symbols have to be incarnated to have integrity and usefulness. Q: Why should Christians in Canada care about this? A: Our concern for the situation of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation and their struggle for justice runs far deeper than reasonable compassion for a community that has suffered for a century under the callous crush of settler society. Our concern is equally for the wider society who, in pursuit of progress (defined mostly in economic terms), has not only dehumanized and alienated Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, but in doing so has dehumanized themselves and, to some degree, alienated themselves from God. If we look through the lens of biblical covenant, we will see that in this particular situation what some might call an outrage or a disgrace, the scriptures call sin. Simply put, Christians should care about sin. Q: Why should the Federal Government provide funding, and not just the City and Province, given that the City...

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