Report on Freedom Road
December 8, 2016
Last fall, tens of thousands of Canadians voiced solidarity to confront the systemic injustice of a 100-year relationship between the City of Winnipeg and Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
Fresh water from Shoal Lake has benefited our city and province while costing the people who live there their traditional way of life, their economic viability, personal safety, essential services like safe drinking water and waste disposal and the safety of their children who must live away from home to go to school.
Last fall, three levels of government committed to sharing the costs of building Freedom Road. That was an event worth celebrating. However, significant gaps remain. Until the physical gap is bridged (Freedom Road), Shoal Lake 40 remains dangerously isolated. In recent memory, nine people have died for lack of safe access to the mainland. Any more delays cause real risk.
There remains a financial gap. Even though appropriate governments have agreed to share costs, our newly elected Provincial Government is reviewing a signed community benefits agreement, which could unfortunately mean losing a construction season.
More importantly, there is a moral gap. Everyone who benefits from Winnipeg’s fresh water supply has a moral responsibility to acknowledge that our prosperity has come at the expense of our neighbours. Last year, the city of Winnipeg transferred $32 million in income from Shoal Lake fresh water into its general revenues.
Indeed, national Christian leaders are beginning to speak out. Terry Smith, Executive Director of Canadian Baptist Ministries, wrote an open apology to Canada’s First Nations:
“…we acknowledge our ongoing complicity through our failure to call out and stand against these systemic acts of injustice.”
How can we pray?
When we turn on the TAP… pray for the GAP
• Thank God for our clean water.
• Ask God to inspire action to close the gaps that keep lives at risk.
• Pray for our leaders’ wisdom and cooperation in honouring our solemn undertakings to the people whose lands and resources we have appropriated.
• Pray for the health and safety of the good people of Shoal Lake 40.
Please share these requests with everyone in your circles, especially children and youth. This is a moment for the Church to cry out for our nation.
On behalf of Churches For Freedom Road:
Rick Hill, Elim Chapel
Steve Bell, Signpost Music