A contested road project in western Saskatchewan won’t go ahead in 2019 as a rural municipality seeks consultation with First Nations groups.
The RM of Winslow previously put the project on hold for the month of June after receiving complaints about the proposed gravel roadway in an area where numerous Indigenous artifacts were unearthed eight months ago.
Items include ancient pottery and volcanic glass in a field northeast of Dodsland, Sask.
“We have identified varying levels of potential grievances for this proposed road development project over the last few weeks and as such have decided to halt project construction in 2019,” RM of Winslow Reeve Sheldon McLean said in a statement.
The discovery prompted leaders from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC) to call for an immediate stop to the roadwork.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said “thousands” of people were prepared to set up a teepee camp to block the project.
Landowners Jim and Mitzi Gilroy also signed a memorandum of understanding with the FSIN and BATC.
McLean stated the RM’s approach was consistent with any other road project in the province. The RM council believed that all due diligence was done, he said.
Following an impact assessment, the province’s Heritage Conservation Branch allowed the RM to proceed with the project.
Provincial legislation didn’t require consultation with Indigenous people about the future of the project. Now, McLean said an engagement process is underway with First Nations groups.
WATCH (June 11, 2019): FSIN proposes teepee camp at contested road project in western Sask.
“We respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions and concerns, and would also value their advice,” McLean said.
“We hope to find a respectful and mutually acceptable solution to this proposed project.”
The proposed gravel road would connect multiple provincial highways, while increasing access to the northern half of the RM.
The RM of Winslow is about 150 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.