Tsuut’ina Trail section of Calgary ring road opens to traffic, ceremony interrupted by displaced family

CALGARY — A 12-kilometre section of the southwest leg of Calgary’s ring road is now open but for a family displaced by the highway, the announcement was not embraced as a reason for celebration.

Premier Jason Kenney, Transportation Minister Ric McIver, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, MLA Whitney Issik and Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney participated in a ceremony Thursday afternoon where a 12-kilometre section of Tsuut’ina Trail, south of Glenmore Trail and north of Fish Creek Boulevard, was officially opened to traffic.

Kenney called it a “historic day of partnership and prosperity.”

“We are here with our friends and partners from the Tsuut’ina to celebrate some really great news,” he said.

“We have made huge progress on the southwest Calgary ring road and today, we are opening a 12-kilometre stretch between Sarcee Trail and Fish Creek Boulevard. It is open to traffic and Calgary will be moving more quickly, more efficiently.

“After 70 years of patience and four years of construction, finally this good day has come.”

Following statements by the dignitaries, Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse took to the podium to address the gathering and express his family’s pain.

“The ring road is built on my family’s land,” said Dodginghorse. “I lived on 210 Weaselhead Road. If you look straight down that way, you can see where my family’s home was. People are going to be driving on my family’s home.

“Today is not a good day. I woke up this morning to see my mother crying when she heard the news that this road was going to be opening.”

Dodginghorse said his family had lived in the home for generations before they were forcibly removed in 2014, erased from Tsuut’ina Nation supports and services and left homeless.

“I have had to watch for six years to see people say this economic development is bringing prosperity and it is bringing together two nations,” he said. “You can’t build prosperity and you can’t build relationships when you erase the women that came from this land.”

The 26-year-old finished his address by thanking the assembled group, showing them a container of dirt he collected from the site of his former home before cutting off his braids and tossing them aside on the highway.

Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse, braids, ring road

Chief Roy Whitney of the Tsuut’ina Nation responded to Dodginghorse’s claims by saying the “story’s been told”, adding he is willing to speak with concerned nation members at a different time.

“We had months of discussion within our community,” said Whitney. “Through a process we built some 25 new homes. When the vote occurred it was close to 80 per cent in favour of conducting the deal with the province and accepting the lands that were provided to us. It was a community vote and, as our elders would say — and I’m an elder now so I can say it — there’s a time and place for everything. So everyone that lived along the corridor had an opportunity at several, several reservation meetings that we had. It was not something that was conducted outside.

“There’s agreements by every family members that lived along this corridor that received additional homes or new lands or places to build their home. Those agreements were signed by those families who moved into those locations.”

Chief Roy Whitney, Seth Dodginghorse

Chief Roy Whitney addresses Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse after Dodginghourse interrupted the ceremonial Tsuut’ina Trail opening to express his pain regarding his family’s displacement

With the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, the only sections of the ring road that remain under construction are between Fish Creek Boulevard and Highway 22X, and the west leg between Glenmore Trail/Highway 8 to the Trans-Canada Highway.

As of June, the province said the entire ring road is scheduled to be complete by 2024, with the remaining section of the southwest leg set to open by the end of this year.

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