State of emergency declared in Cumberland House due to impassable road

Vehicles, including a large truck are bogged down along a stretch of Hwy 123 leading to the village of Cumberland House. -- Photo from the petition.

Recent rains have washed out Highway 123 leading to the village of Cumberland House and the neighbouring Cumberland House Cree Nation and the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan Eastern Region I to declare a state of emergency.

“The deplorable and deteriorating conditions of Highway 123 puts the health and well-being of our community members in jeopardy. With the support of Cumberland Cree Nation and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) Eastern Region I (ERI), we are declaring a State of Emergency in our region,” Cumberland House Mayor Ferlin McKay said in a press release. “We are at a critical point and we’re calling on the Federal and Provincial governments to meet with our leadership immediately.

“The road is impassable to the transportation of important goods and services for our citizens. Essential things like milk, bread, baby formula, and prescription medications are dwindling and impeding access to emergency services, and fly in services is alarming.”

Cumberland Cree Nation Chief Rene Chaboyer and Metis Nation Saskatchewan Eastern Region I Director Ryan Carriere added to McKay’s call for help.

“We urgently call for immediate action from Canada and Saskatchewan to address the dire situation on Highway 123,” Chaboyer said in a press release. “We need a safe and reliable access for emergency services, food, supplies, and vital resources. Immediate action needs to be taken to repair the road and come up with a long-term plan to replace the poorly constructed Highway.”

“The current road conditions pose a significant threat to the safety and livelihoods of our residents and demand swift intervention to prevent further harm,” Carriere said. “We are committed to working collaboratively with all relevant authorities and agencies to mitigate the impact of this crisis and ensure the well-being of all community members.”

The three communities are calling on the provincial and federal governments to prioritize the urgent needs in the region and take action to address the situation.

A petition urging better highway infrastructure for safe year round travel has accumulated over 1,900 signatures.

The petition was started by Janelle Thomas. She wrote that visitors and residents face “nearly impossible travel conditions” due to the poor state of the highway.

“Transport vehicles carrying gasoline, food, and other necessities are getting stuck because of freight weight,” Thomas wrote. “Ambulances cannot make it through the muddy roads, putting our sick and elderly residents at risk of further illness or even death.

“Residents who rely on dialysis up to three times a week must leave the community for care but struggle with unreliable road conditions. This situation is unacceptable for a community with such historical significance and ongoing celebrations.”

Cumberland House is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The community is roughly 300 km east of Prince Albert.