After decade of lobbying, Canadian First Nation in Northwest Territories getting $16.8M for infrastructure

David Poitras, chief of Salt River First Nation, said his nation has been lobbying the government for funding since 2010. On Monday, the federal minister for Indigenous Services Canada announced its commitment to fund sewer, water and roadway infrastructure for the First Nation. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)
After a decade of lobbying, the Salt River First Nation was finally granted $16.8 million worth of funding toward a key infrastructure project this week.

According to Chief David Poitras, the First Nation has been in discussions with the federal government since 2010 about the $16.8-million sewage, water and housing project on reserve land. In July, the chief of the First Nation pushed the federal government to approve the project.

On Monday, the Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller announced the federal government would be committing the funding toward sewer, water and roadway infrastructure.

The project will create 39 new homes, and would provide critical sewage and water services to several of the nation’s local businesses, according to a news release from Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod on Monday.

The Salt River First Nation is one of two federal reserves in the Northwest Territories. The reserve neighbours Fort Smith, where the community would receive many of its essential services like water and sewage treatment.

The new infrastructure will “provide much needed services to its members,” said McLeod, in the press release.

“This will have significant immediate, short and long-term socio-economic benefits … for the town of Fort Smith and the Northwest Territories.”

Chief ‘very elated’

Poitras, the chief of the Salt River First Nation, said he’s “elated” because this will reconnect the town, which was scattered by a landslide in 1968. He said the natural disaster led to a loss of culture, language, and community.

“It’s very exciting. We can start rebuilding our nation.”David Poitras, Salt River First Nation Chief

He expects the project to be completed in the next two years.

The First Nation is in the process of hiring a manager, who will then start handing out contracts and begin the much needed work. Poitras said the First Nation will be receiving $4 million this year, and the remaining $12.8 million next year.

Poitras wanted to thank the many people who helped secure the funding.

“To name a few,” he said, “our Premier Caroline Cochrane, the mayor of Fort Smith, the Dene Nation, the Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, our chief negotiator, our lawyer team, Micheal McLeod.”

“A lot of people worked on this and we’re very elated at the results.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Green energy retrofits coming to public buildings in Arctic Canada, CBC News

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: The Arctic railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russian Indigenous groups call on Elon Musk to boycott company behind Arctic environmental disasters, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Alaska reckons with missing data on murdered Indigenous women, Alaska Public Media

Hannah Paulson, CBC

Hannah Paulson is a reporter from the Northwest Territories. She grew up in Gameti, Yellowknife, and Liidlii Kue.

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