An isolated reserve cut off from the mainland for the sake of Winnipeg’s water supply will finally get its Freedom Road.
And it can’t come soon enough for Winnipeg grandmother Sharon Redsky.
Redsky lives on the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, essentially a man-made island. She works at a daycare on the mainland. In the summer, that means a boat trip to work. In the winter, she crosses the ice.
And during freeze-up and the spring melt when the ice is still thin, it’s a precarious five-minute shuffle twice a day.
Last spring, Redsky fell through. She caught her arms on the top of the ice, dangling in the cold water chest-deep.
“I just started yelling and screaming and my husband and (grandson) came running back and pulled me out.”
Many of her family members have broken through. Some residents have lost their lives.
Her grandson Cameron says it’s a nerve-racking crossing.
“Sometimes it’s just a few inches thick when you’re starting to drive on it. You can hear the cracking,” he said. “I fell through a few times when I was younger just trying to walk across to go to the store.”
On Thursday, the federal government finally committed to fund one-third of the construction, the final portion needed.
The reserve has been under a boil water advisory for 18 years and its road access was cut off almost 100 years ago when an aqueduct was built to bring water to Winnipeg.
The 24-kilometre road will connect the community to the TransCanada Highway. It will make it less expensive to construct a water treatment plant and will allow for easier access for emergency vehicles and waste disposal.
The design work is underway and should expected to be completed in the spring. It’s unclear whether construction can start next year. Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky says it will take two to two-and-a-half years to construct.
Redsky says she’s been hoping and praying for Freedom Road for a long time.
“I’m really happy that we’re going to get our road,” she said.
Granddaughter Sophie, 6, chimed in beside her.
“We’re going to get a road. No more walking on the ice,” she smiled.