Residents of a remote northern Saskatchewan First Nation are pressing the provincial government to live up to a promise it made to the community back in 2008.

They say it is a matter of life and death for the Hatchet Lake First Nation.  At issue is an all-weather road connecting the community to Wollaston Lake.

Right now, it takes residents three hours on a ferry to cross the lake — and in the winter, it is an ice road, which is often unstable and dangerous.

Highways Minister Don McMorris is meeting today with a delegation from Hatchet Lake, including the chief, to hear the communities’ concerns first-hand.

In the legislature this morning, the issue of a death in 2010 was raised.  A teacher on the reserve died when her vehicle broke through the ice.

Hatchet Lake Chief Bart Tsannie says the road is more than just a matter of convenience:

“The only way out is by air — but we’re still boating across.  But who wants to travel on a boat this time of year with ice and big waves.  But we have to take that chance — that’s the only way out.”

The issue was raised in the legislature by New Democrat MLA Doyle Vermette, who represents the community of about 1,500 hundred residents:

“They’ve had the last five years to do something.  They’ve chosen not to.  Now, reinstate the money that you promised and get the job done.”

McMorris would not commit the government to finishing the project:

“I can tell you that, in this current year’s budget, there isn’t money allotted to move that project forward.  Every year, we go through the budget process, we deal with competing priorities, and look to see if we can move that one forward.”

While nearly $1 million worth of work was done in 2008, not much has happened since then.  The road was scheduled to be completed this year.

When finished, the all-weather road would be about 110 km long.  Right now, about 14 km is complete.