Ottawa may put dollars into Nunavut-Manitoba road

DIAND waiting for Nunavut cabinet decision

By SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS

AVERY ASCHER

Several years after the idea first emerged, talks are still continuing at several levels on the proposed Nunavut-Manitoba road. Money from Ottawa may be forthcoming once Nunavut meets several conditions.

“The federal government seems interested in partnering with us,” Shawn Maley, assistant deputy minister of Nunavut’s Department of Community Government and Transportation, said in early April.

One of the two key items Ottawa is looking for before committing funds, that of a letter of support passed by Nunavut’s cabinet, is expected to be issued “very soon,” Maley said.

Ottawa’s other requirement is the backing of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

On issues requiring NTI’s support, Maley said, the approach generally taken is that “we like to direct things through NTI’s regional associations, and they move it up within their organizations themselves. The federal government insists on their involvement.”

An Iqaluit-Kimmirut road?

He added the Nunavut-Manitoba road is one of three routes the Nunavut government views as current priorities — the other two being the Bathurst Inlet road and a proposed road from Iqaluit to Kimmirut. The Bathurst Inlet project is seen as “a model we’d all like to follow.”

An information-sharing meeting to move the Nunavut-Manitoba road forward, planned between the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Nunavut’s Department of Community Government and Transportation, and Manitoba Transportation, was expected to take place in Winnipeg in late April 2002.

The Manitoba government views a road linking it with its northern neighbour as no less than “nation building,” Steve Ashton, Manitoba’s transportation minister said, calling the projected $20-million cost for a winter road, together with an estimated $7 million in annual maintenance “very cost-effective nation building.”

All Manitoba communities are now connected by winter road. “Winter roads are a permanent feature for Manitoba,” Ashton said, adding that it’s good planning to adopt the same route for a winter road as for an all-weather road.

From Manitoba’s perspective, a Nunavut-Manitoba road is “achievable, not a huge amount of money, and reasonable. It would be a huge statement of vision by all three governments,” Ashton said.

Last December, Nunavut and Manitoba pledged $250,000 apiece toward the next phase of the road project, at the same time requesting a matching $500,000 contribution from Ottawa.

The next phase would examine each of five proposed road corridors in depth, including looking at environmental issues. It would also include community consultations.

“The way this is going to succeed is through a partnership,” Ashton said. “Our view is we’ve got to have the federal government if this is going to work.”

Two of the five proposed routes link Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat to Churchill and Gillam, connecting at Gillam to Manitoba’s highway network.

The other three routes swing further west to hook up with the provincial highway system at Lynn Lake. Extensions of the road from Rankin Inlet to Chesterfield Inlet and Baker Lake are also envisioned, as well as a possible ice road from Churchill along the west coast of Hudson Bay.

Manitoba-Dene continue hunting discussions

Meanwhile, discussions continue on the related issue of hunting grounds within Nunavut traditionally claimed by northern Manitoba Dene.

“Both sides are engaged in confidential without-prejudice discussions,” said Michael FitzPatrick, senior media relations officer with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Talks between the Sayisi Dene, Northlands First Nation, NTI and the Kivalliq Inuit Association have been occurring since January 2001.

At that time, all parties said they would work toward concluding a treaty of friendship and co-operation, to be witnessed by the Nunavut and Manitoba governments. Such a treaty would recognize the rights of Sayisi Dene and the Northlands First Nation of Manitoba in Nunavut, and Inuit rights in Manitoba.

Spokesmen for northern Manitoba Dene communities have said their people are concerned about the fast pace of change that road development would bring. Manitoba Dene also worry that opening up the area would bring in many more non-resident treaty Indians who might kill more caribou.

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