The chief of Salt River First Nation says a long-awaited infrastructure funding announcement reflects an “act of reconciliation” by the federal government.
“To say we were elated, would be an understatement,” says Chief David Poitras, “our team is excited, happy and relieved.”
This project will increase the residential capacity for Salt River reserve — creating a 39-lot subdivision within the boundaries of Fort Smith.
“Fort Smith, as you know, economically has been down over the past couple of years and I think this will be a bit of a boost,” Poitras says.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said in a previous interview, the project is expected to create around 70 jobs.
There have been discussions around the $16.8 million project since 2010.
The funding will go towards water, sewer, street infrastructure and electricity systems.
The announcement comes at a critical time for the community, as Poitras says the area has been struggling since a landslide in 1968.
“We lost a lot, in terms of culture, language after the landslide,” Poitras says.
He adds, once the subdivision is built, he expects people who previously left the community may return.
Now that funding is secured, the project will be turned over to Cliff Kelsey and the staff at AECOM Engineering for the next steps.
Poitras gave credit to Ken Laviolette, the chief negotiator, as well as Bruce Cottingham, Ernie Daniels, Henry Beaver Sr., Colleen Verville and Allen Stanzell who all assisted in the negotiations.
Poitras also extended thanks to Michael McLeod, MP for the NWT, for his help in securing the funding.
“I just want to congratulate Salt River First Nation members,” Poitras says, “needless to say, I’m very happy right now.”
The project is expected to take two years to complete.
With files from Mariah Caruso