Caldwell First Nation claims never consulted on Gordie Howe bridge
Not everyone is pleased with the Community Benefits announcement for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
The $20 million benefits package consists of two components: Workforce development and neighbourhood infrastructure.
But the Chief of Caldwell First Nation says they were never consulted.
"We're standing on our ancestor's ground, blood was shed here. We have a say in this territory and we don't want to be left out, and we come here humbly saying, will you listen to us?” said Chief Mary Duckworth at last week’s announcement.
Duckworth argues Caldwell First Nation was never meaningfully consulted, nor given the same consideration for financial benefit as Walpole Island, which receives about $1 million in benefits.
In a letter to the Minister of Indigenous Services, members of the Caldwell Band suggest the federal government has a legal obligation to consult, under section 35 of the Indian Act.
The letter describes this as a "grave lapse in judgement."
The Chief and Council are requesting a meeting to find "a resolution that encompasses proper and meaningful consultation."
But the communications vice president at the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority says Caldwell First Nation was indeed invited to the consultation sessions over the past four years.
"As we move forward through the next phase of the delivery of the community benefits plan, we'll be continuing consultation and engagement,” says Heather Grondin. “We look forward to groups continuing to be engaged and new groups being engaged with us throughout those steps."
The Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy is a $20 million (CAD) investment on both sides of the border, developed through public feedback and input. 29 initiatives and 24 delivery partners located in Windsor, Detroit and Walpole Island have been identified as part of the strategy.
The costs will be broken down as follows:
- • $8.1 million for aesthetics and landscaping
- • $3.5 million for community safety and connections
- • $2.2 million for community partnerships
- • $1.1 million for economic benefits
The six-lane bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit is expected to cost roughly $5.7-billion and be open to traffic by 2024.