An Indigenous man whose family lost their land took over the podium during celebratory remarks from government officials as the last portion of the $1.4-billion southwest Calgary ring road opened on Saturday.
Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse says his family has been greatly affected by the ring road after they were forced from their land. When the first stretch of the road opened last year he cut his braids in protest.
His mic was cut on the provincial video feed of the road’s opening ceremony on Saturday, but it was recorded by a media pool camera feed.
Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi marked the opening of the southwest ring road at 2 p.m., closing the road to public travel.
As McIver introduced Nenshi, Dodginghorse instead took to the podium, followed by police officers.
“I honestly do not want to be here right now,” he said.
Part of the freeway is built on land the province acquired from the Tsuut’ina First Nation in 2013.
“I know that there are people on Tsuut’ina who are still hurting by what this road has caused, they are still feeling it. I know I am still feeling it,” he said.
He challenged Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney to not sell or lease land, and his relatives and other Tsuut’ina people to stand with him.
He said just because the projects have been given Indigenous names doesn’t mean harm hasn’t been done.
“To the privileged Albertans and Calgarians that are travelling on this road, I strongly say do not drive on this road and do not drive on Tsuut’ina Trail,” he said.
“I am against this road, I am against what it stands for, and what these economic developments stand for.”
Nenshi spoke following Dodginghorse’s remarks.
Dodginghorse spoke to the mayor from off-camera, after Nenshi said he worked to bring clean drinking water to Tsuut’ina Nation. Dodginghorse said he does not have clean drinking water at his home.
Nenshi said 75 per cent of Tsuut’ina members voted in favour of the ring road.
“I understand you disagree … but ultimately we have to listen to the entire community.”
“One of the things I said at the beginning is that this road only works if the Tsuut’ina approve of it. And indeed, in a referendum, the Tsuut’ina did approve of it. Overwhelmingly,” Nenshi said.
When the province later posted video of the event, Dodginghorse was cut out of the video.
The southwest ring road is 31 kilometres of six- and eight-lane divided highway, stretching from Highway 8 to Macleod Trail S.E.
Construction on the ring road started in 2017. The first 15-kilometre segment, between Glenmore Trail and 146th Avenue S.W., opened last year.
The Alberta government was in charge of construction.
“Calgarians have been waiting for five long years for this day,” Sawhney said.
She said the project created 2,000 jobs, and work is continuing on the west Calgary ring road.
The entire ring road was supposed to open in 2022, but has been delayed by two years, and is expected to open in 2024.
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