BIRCH ISLAND – Anyone undertaking new construction in the later months of the pandemic has run into challenges in acquiring necessary materials, with several construction projects going into hiatus due to shortages—but not Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN). The band is well on its way to completing construction of four new two-bedroom detached homes located close to Shawanosowe School.
“We purchased the materials back in March and had them held for us for when we could start construction,” noted WRFN Chief Shining Turtle. “It was a good move, because if we hadn’t locked those materials down and had the suppliers hold them for us we would not be where we are today.”
“We talked to Home Hardware and said ‘keep the materials and the material prices’,” he said. “They put all our material away, so we never had to have a big fight over prices or material.”
Chief Shining Turtle took The Expositor on a short tour of the building sites, where basements of high R-value insulated concrete form foundations are taking shape and construction crews were hard at work.
“We have the same contractors (Lignum Builders Ltd.) as the elders’ residence,” said WRFN Housing Manager Georgina Recollet. “They contracted to start the houses in October.”
The warm weather has played a key role in helping keep the construction on track, said Chief Shining Turtle. “If you don’t have it, guys are shovelling snow all day. Now we have the foundations in, the walls can go in. They can tarp things over, bring in space heaters and portable power. Guys can do the work and go home.”
“We are building our future,” said Chief Shining Turtle. “We have young families moving here. Whether there is COVID or not, we are committed to the future of this community. We’ve come too far to turn our backs to the wind.”