Clock is ticking

It appears the Couchiching band council has no intention of backing down from its plan to install a toll booth on Highway #11 just west of the Noden Causeway, meeting last night to set the fee schedule.
The federal government certainly hasn’t done much, if anything, to defuse the situation since the band first unveiled its plan in late April. Local MP John Rafferty says he’s written to Indian Affairs minister Chuck Strahl four times, requesting a meeting with the Couchiching leadership, but to no avail. A letter from Grand Council Treaty #3 Chief Diane Kelly similarly has fallen on deaf ears.
For the province’s part, it initially offered to install street lights and street signs, and perhaps a bike trail, in an effort to resolve the dispute. Then with the clock ticking towards Friday’s noon deadline, the deputy minister for aboriginal affairs yesterday invited Couchiching to take part in serious discussions—prompting Chief Chuck McPherson to rightly wonder whether previous negotiations were little more than a joke.
In the meantime, local non-native residents are caught in the middle—understandably upset over the prospect of having to pay a “toll” to use Highway #11 to cross Couchiching.
It’s shameful that the situation has gotten to this point, and increasingly worrisome about where it will go from here.
Will violence erupt if someone refuses to pay the toll? Will hatred be allowed to tear our communities apart?
What happens if an emergency vehicle, though exempt from paying the toll, gets caught up in a potential traffic jam? Are there contingency plans for that scenario?
And if the toll booth is allowed to operate at Couchiching, will other First Nations in the area follow suit?
There could be many consequences if the toll booth goes ahead, and not very many of them good.
Time is running out for cooler heads to prevail.