(Prime Minister poses with members of Shoal Lake 40 Thursday. Photo: Karen Kejick, facebook)
APTN National News
The Chief of Shoal Lake 40 says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in the community Thursday morning to a warm welcome.
The trip to the community, that borders the Ontario, Manitoba border by the prime minister, was billed as a “private tour.”
Shortly after forming government, the Liberals announced their commitment to ‘Freedom Road.”
The all weather road would end 100 years of isolation the community was forced into when the aqueduct was built to supply water to the city of Winnipeg.
Despite providing the Manitoba capital with water, Shoal Lake 40 itself has been on one of the longest boil water advisories of any First Nation.
But Chief Erwin Redsky told APTN National News by phone that he didn’t talk about the road with Trudeau.
Redsky said there were no “asks and no commitments.”
Trudeau “is a teacher by profession and today he was a student” said Redsky. “He was here to listen and learn.”
On Wednesday, the chief of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation wouldn’t confirm Trudeau was coming but said if he did, there would be no media allowed.
However, later in the day, Vice News issued a press release saying they would be accompanying Trudeau to the community as part of an upcoming documentary.
Redsky said he was contacted by Vice News and the Prime Minister’s Office about the trip.
The exclusive access set off a firestorm on twitter among journalists and others concerned that only one media outlet was getting access.
Normally, media, including APTN National News, pools resources to cover events when the prime minister goes on the road.
Still, APTN and a crew from Global Television in Winnipeg were able to get on the man-made island.
Both crews were quickly stopped by Treaty 3 Police and escorted to a police boat and taken back across the lake to Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First Nation.
Redsky said it was his decision and those of his council and community not to let media in.
“I told you to respect my decision and you did not do that.”
Redsky said he didn’t want a media circus in the community.
Media were not the only ones prevented from going to the all day event with the prime minister.
George Linklater from neighbouring Band #39 said they were informed that no other members were allowed into the community other than members of Band #40.
It was a disappointment for Linklater who said he would have loved to meet the prime minister.
Children from the David Kejick School were also waiting for Trudeau, signs in hand.
Trudeau accessed the community via helicopter.
The opportunity to meet Trudeau didn’t stop Penielle Linklater.
She hopped into a boat and snuck over. And she took a message with her.
In a “chance of a lifetime meeting” with Trudeau she raised her concerns about missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“It makes me sad and as an Aboriginal woman I don’t feel safe” Linklater said.
Back at Shoal Lake 40, the chief said he encouraged the prime minister during his visit to make similar visits to Attawapiskat and “other communities going through what we are.”
Redsky said Shoal Lake 40 is one example of “the broken relationship but it can also be the model for a new relationship moving forward.”