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Canada Ottawa gives $6-million for access roads to two remote Manitoba First Nations

Aerial of the Pauingassi First Nation. The federal government is giving $6-million to build access roads to Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First nations. Right now, the two are accessible only by air or winter road.

John Woods/The Globe and Mail

Remote First Nations in Manitoba are getting roads and jobs.

The federal government has announced it is giving $6 million to build access roads to the Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids First Nations.

When completed, the roads will connect the communities to Manitoba's all-season road network currently under construction on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

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Right now Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi are accessible only by air or winter road.

Little Grand Rapids Chief Martin Owens says the roads will improve residents' quality of life by providing jobs and also improve relations between the two communities.

The road will also open the way to the local airport, and when finished, the roads will link the communities with the Bloodvein First Nation and the all-season road.

"Our families will now be able to assist one another in all aspects of healthy living," Owens said in a news release Wednesday.

Tory MP Shelly Glover says the project will make it easier for community members to access job sites and training and will improve economic prospects.

About 36,000 residents, mostly aboriginal, live in more than 30 communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

Little Grand Rapids has an on-reserve population of 1,269 and is about 268 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

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Pauingassi First Nation has an on-reserve population of 584 and is about 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and 24 kilometres north of Little Grand Rapids.

Also Wednesday, the Manitoba government announced all 2,200 kilometres of winter roads are open.

It means large trucks and other vehicles can get food, fuel, building supplies and other goods to a lot of isolated northern communities.

Manitoba Transportation Minister Ron Kostyshyn said cold temperatures and lack of snow early this winter created good conditions on many of the routes that opened earlier than normal.

"A lot of work has been done recently to maximize the short winter road season including an engineering study that has allowed an increase in load levels on most winter roads. This means supplies can be delivered more efficiently," he said in a news release.

Each year, more than 2,000 shipments of goods are trucked to a large number of isolated northern communities and the system also provides road access for area residents.

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The Manitoba government has completed a panel bridge on the winter road to Garden Hill and Red Sucker Lake First Nations, Kostyshyn said, adding these structures greatly extend the short length of time these winter roads are open each season.

This is the first year the East Side Road Authority is managing the winter road system on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. This accounts for approximately half of the winter road network. The other half continues to be managed by the province.

The work to prepare the winter roads was done by more than 20 companies and created jobs for more than 100 employees. Construction and maintenance work is contracted out, primarily to local communities or First Nation joint-venture companies, which creates local employment and training opportunities, the minister said.

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