Councillor wants construction delayed on stretch of Wellington that may contain Métis artifacts

Coun. Kevin Klein says construction on Wellington Crescent should be put on hold until an an archeological investigation can be completed.

$9.65M project to move section of Winnipeg road and stabilize riverbank has met with opposition

The city wants to move a section of the iconic street leading to Assiniboine Park because of riverbank erosion. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC )

A Winnipeg city councillor says an archeological investigation of a section of Wellington Crescent should be completed before a road project on the street is started. 

Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) made the request Tuesday morning at the city's infrastructure and public works committee.

The councillor says he was contacted by archeologist David Riddle, who told him there may significant Métis artifacts in the ground along the street, and the banks of the nearby Assiniboine River.

CBC News has reached out to Riddle for comment on why he suspects there could be artifacts on the land.

A section of Wellington Crescent just east of Assinibione Park — from Doncaster Street to Grenfell Boulevard — is slated to be moved, as riverbank erosion has threatened both the street and some adjacent sewer and water infrastructure.

The city is doing an assessment to see if there are any items of historical importance on the site.

A section of the bike path to Assiniboine Park was closed in 2017, after the riverbank failed and cracks in the path made it unsafe for use.

Coun. Kevin Klein says the city should delay any work on Wellington Crescent until a proper historical examination of the land is completed. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Klein has led opposition to the plan on behalf of residents, who he says have been critical of the city's public engagement process, are uncertain about how it may change traffic patterns, and are worried about a long strip of the street without any traffic calming measures along it.

"It's Métis land. We acknowledge that we are on the homeland of the Métis. It deserves, and the people deserve … the proper due diligence of archeological study on that land to find artifacts and parts of our history we may not be aware of," Klein said.

Klein says he has contacted the Manitoba Metis Federation so its researchers can look at the land and check MMF's own archives.

The city's plan would move several blocks of Wellington Crescent away from the Assiniboine River and adjust the current location of a pedestrian and cycling path. (City of Winnipeg)

The project to move the road and stabilize the riverbank will cost $9.65 million, based on a Class 3 estimate (one with a variance of up to 30 per cent).

Mayor Brian Bowman was asked about the possibility of a historically significant piece of land coming into conflict with a city project, but declined comment Tuesday, saying he didn't know the facts as yet.

"The project can be paused and wait another year and we can do this project properly," Klein said.

City staff told councillors on the infrastructure and public works committee an archeologist has been engaged to do a heritage resource impact assessment of the land.

That work should be completed in the next six weeks and from that the city should be able to determine the next steps.

Options could range from monitoring the site during construction, doing more investigation, doing a full excavation for artifacts or even altering the project design.