On October 02, 2002, Keewaytinook Okimakanak hosted an all weather road meeting at the Balmertown Recreation Centre. It was attended by approximately 43 people from the Red Lake district First Nations of Pikangikum, Deer Lake, North Spirit Lake, Poplar Hill, Keewaywin, McDowell Lake and Sandy Lake. Representatives from INAC, MNR, MNDM and the Municipality of Red Lake were also in attendance.
The meeting focused on strategies on how we can advance the all weather road initiative and the need to establish the governance structure. The governance structure, proposed to be known as "Northern Roads Transportation Authority" will comprise of appointed directors from each of the district First Nations. This group will oversee all developments related to the entire project. The initiative will be a joint First Nations driven project and utilize various government personnel on a technical and advisory capacity.
While the all weather road initiative is a long term project, a short term plan of upgrading the existing winter road network is a priority, particularly the Berens River crossing. The warming climate is a major concern to all users of the winter road.
Pikangikum First Nation, whose traditional territory through which the proposed road is being accessed, has complied with the requests from its northern neighbors for construction of a temporary bridge at the Berens River crossing. This would be used during the winter road season only. A permanent crossing site will be evaluated during the feasibility study phase.
More meetings are being planned in the coming weeks. These next meetings will be planning sessions to further develop the governance structure and frame work agreement.