Marten Falls First Nation officials and Matawa representatives hosted an All-Access-Road meeting on August 31, 2017 at the community’s community hall. The meeting was to touch base on the future development of the north-south road to the community following the announcement that provincial government will be funding the road.
Qasim Saddique, a consultant from Toronto and advisor to Cheif Bruce Achneepineskum on development issues, spoke at the meeting. Saddique said it is vital that community citizens share their input. He said there will be changes happening in the future.
“It was really essential to get community citizens to understand the different changes that have been happening between the conversation with Marten Falls and Ontario. There’s a lot that happened over the summer. The announcement was made on the 21st of August on the north-south road coming into Marten Falls which the province will be funding,” he said. “That was a big change and that process has been in place for awhile. It was negotiations happening on a daily basis.”
Saddique said the meeting was productive and discussed opportunities for the community.
“It was a fantastic meeting. We had some really dynamic conversation around the options that are available to the community. The road is built a certain way that makes a lot of sense, what the future looks like, what planning is going to mean for the next few years, what type of choices are going to be available to community citizens,” he said. “What a more prosperous and sustainable future can look like. So being able to talk about that process, being able to tell people what happened and why we did certain things from a planning perspective and what will that mean in the coming days. Getting people’s feedback from the community’s grassroots level was essential in today’s meeting.”
He said the community’s decision to build the road will be a prosperous one and that it will benefit the community in the long-term. “My personal opinion is the community made the right choice. It’s essential to chose something that’ll lead to a long-term, prosperous sustainable future. If you got options and you could pick two roads, you might as well pick a road that’ll create future opportunities which can help develop a sustainable economy in Marten Falls, which can help community citizens get gainful employment. It can be a road to a better future. In my personal perspective I see this as a win-win for Marten Falls and I want to congratulate the community on that, as well,” he said.
Saddique said the community had only started planning for the road but stated that in their negotiations they were able to get a lot of work completed.
“In the community we talked about this, with the community and other representatives in Ontario that Marten Falls only started planning this in December 2016. We’re in August 2017 right now so in eight short months which for infrastructure development is not a lot of time. We were able to achieve quite a bit,” he said. “There is a lot of work ahead of us still.”
Saddique said construction on the road could start in early 2019, depending on the processes of approval and negotiations. “It is possible to start construction on the road as early as January 2019. That’s a year and a half away. We’ll have to go through approval processes and there is the possibility that there can be a delay,” he said. “But even if there is a delay we’re talking about a few weeks here and there.”
There were three alternative routes proposed for the road. The community selected a route where the road will not disturb any burial sites or contaminate the river in anyway. “We looked at the three alternatives and the we think the road the community has chosen makes a lot of sense because it keeps the possibility of it being used to go to the Ring of Fire.”
He said careful planning in this venture is essential that it will benefit the community and the country economically. “There is a lot of positive change if we do it responsibly. We must consider the environment and the values of the community.”