Shoal Lake 40 chief calls for immediate construction of Freedom Road after barge breaks down
"It's just really tough when your only lifeline breaks down like that, with no notice, it's pretty tough for all of us," said Chief Erwin Redsky

The chief of Shoal Lake 40 is in Winnipeg to call on the federal government to support immediate construction of a road that will provide access to his community, a day after the only way in and out — a barge — broke down.

At least 30 people were left stranded on the mainland from 11:30 a.m. Friday until early Saturday morning when the barge stopped working on its way to pick them up.

Community members worked through the night to ensure everyone made it home, or off of the man-made island community, by walking across the newly-formed ice.

“It’s just really tough when your only lifeline breaks down like that, with no notice, it’s pretty tough for all of us,” said Chief Erwin Redsky, who is in Winnipeg for a Monday meeting with municipal, provincial and federal government representatives.

He added community members were given notice yesterday that it was the last day the barge would run for the season. As a result, many planned to leave the community to stock up, but couldn’t.

“That’s the way it is with Shoal Lake 40. We’re in survival mode this time of the year,” he added.

Shoal Lake straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border and has a population of about 700 people.

The community has been cut off from the mainland for nearly a century after the construction of an aqueduct to bring fresh water to Winnipeg. It has no clean drinking water of its own, and has been under a boil-water advisory for the past 19 years.

Without the barge, the community is completely isolated until the construction of winter ice roads that will last until spring.

“We’re always in crisis at this point. We’re not out of the woodwork yet, until the ice is safe to travel on. We’re going to work on the winter road immediately and prepare that through the west,” he said.

“We’re all on edge right now but we’re a close community,” he added.

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