$8.4 million joint venture will link remote Native community to provincial roads

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SIOUX LOOKOUT, Ont. — The Slate Falls First Nation, Ottawa and the province are jointly investing $8.4 million to build a permanent all-season road linking the First Nation to existing highways.

It’s the first-ever partnership to expand all-season roads into remote areas. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is putting up $2.5 million. The provincial government is also contributing $2.5 million through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and its new Far North Assistance Program. Mackenzie Forest Products is chipping in another $3.4 million. The Slate Falls First Nation will manage the road construction project.

The money will be used to build a 50.7-kilometre all-season road linking the native community to the Vermilion River Road, which joins provincial highway 516 northeast of Sioux Lookout.

Currently, the Slate Falls First Nation, about 140 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, is accessible by air, and by road a winter road during the coldest winter months.

“We are delighted with the support of our partners in this venture,” says Slate Falls First Nation Chief, George Bunting. “This all-season road will open up new economic opportunities and foster well-being by improving our capacity to move goods, services and people to and from our community.”

Robert Nault, Ontario’s minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, says the road project “has the potential to bring substantial benefits” to the whole region, not just the Slate Falls community.

It will take about two years to build the new all-season road. Construction is expected to start in the spring and be completed by the end of March, 2005.

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