First Nation chiefs are working together, as they meet with the MTO on twinning the highway. The leaders from Wash Bay, Shoal Lake 40, Dalles and Rat Portage have signed an agreement, saying they're working together to protect their traditional lands.

They were meeting with the ministry in Thunder Bay yesterday. The project has been on hold for nine years. Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford is openly wondering if money for the project has been spent in other parts of the region. About $100 million was set aside for the project, with both the federal and provincial governments contributing $50 million.

“From even before contact, the Anishinaabe Nation has always had a coordinated response to those seeking safe passage through our territory.  When those looking to go through our territory have been respectful and the trading has been equitable, the relationships have gone well,” said Chief Lorraine Cobiness of Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining First Nation. “We’re hopeful that this can be the case with the Crown’s latest initiative.”

Chief Erwin Redsky of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation pointed out that, “Our First Nation is leading a successful, multi-government collective that is building Freedom Road through a very complicated jurisdictional environment. We’re on time and under budget with great local benefits so we’ve shown what respectful governments can achieve when we work together in partnership on shared goals.”

“Our Treaty talks about respect for rights, safe passage and shared prosperity, so the goals of the Crown and the Anishinaabeg in the TransCanada Twinning project should be no different,” agreed Chief Chris Skead of Waushusk Onigum.

“We are all committed to working together in a spirit of unity, respect and collaboration and our approach is intended to be inclusive of all Anishinaabe rights holders,” explained Chief Sinclair of Obashkaandagaang First Nation. “Other communities are welcome in the Agreement.”

The leaders made their Unity Agreement announcement just prior to meeting in Thunder Bay with senior representatives of Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.