After 10 years of lobbying, the NWT’s Salt River First Nation has been awarded $16.8 million by the federal government to fund a shovel-ready infrastructure project to develop its Fort Smith reserve.
In July, the First Nation said the federal government was discriminating against it by funding projects on southern reserves while Salt River depended on the territorial government for similar cash – despite a 2002 treaty settlement agreement under which the First Nation expected Ottawa to fund infrastructure projects.
The new money, announced by the First Nation and NT MP Michael McLeod on Monday, will fund what Salt River says is work to develop sewer and water pipes, streets, and electrical systems for a new, 39-lot residential subdivision.
The work will also extend water and sewer services to the First Nation’s Petro-Can and Tim Hortons businesses.
“The project is fully engineered and tender-ready,” said the First Nation in a news release on Monday, adding it expects the work to create 77 jobs in the NWT alone.
Of the nearly $17 million, around $6 million will go toward wages.
After the initial infrastructure is developed, the First Nation expects residential construction over subsequent years will invest $20 million in the NWT, including $2.6 million in wages, creating 42 construction jobs.
Earlier in the summer, Chief David Poitras told Cabin Radio the project would help Salt River rebuild after the 1968 landslide, which scattered members across Fort Smith.
“It really created a lot of chaos in terms of our relationships, our culture, language, etcetera,” he said.
“So we believe that getting back into our community … would really help us get back to where we were before the landslide.”
Liberal MP McLeod, in a statement, said: “I have been working with Chief David Poitras on this submission for many months to acquire this funding to allow for the reserve to expand its residential capacity and am so thrilled that this has concluded successfully.
“This will have significant immediate, short and long-term socio-economic benefits and impacts for them, the Town of Fort Smith, and the Northwest Territories. This is a much-needed boost during this time when we are all feeling the economic contraction as we battle the Covid pandemic.”