WINNIPEG -- The Ontario government is moving forward with its plan to widen and twin Highway 17 between Kenora and the Manitoba border.

On Wednesday, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford signed a memorandum of understanding with Niiwin Wendaanimok, a group of four First Nations with interests in the area.

The two ministers also participated in a Manito Aki Inakonigaawin, or Great Earth Law, ceremony.

Mulroney said in a news release that signing the agreement is a “key milestone” for the project.

“We are committed to maintaining a long-term working relationship with Indigenous communities in the Kenora area to ensure the successful completion of the project,” she said. “

"We have a shared goal to create meaningful economic opportunities for local Indigenous communities and build better transportation in Northern Ontario."

The news release said widening the highway will reduce travel times and promote economic development and safety.

Ontario is hoping to get construction underway on section 1 of the project by this summer.

“Everyone wants good, safe roads but, in the past, Ontario’s roads and highways have damaged our resources, our sacred places and marginalized our people,” said Coun. Billy Wahpay of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

“We’re hopeful that the path of partnership that we’re committing to walk with Ontario will, in fact, lead us to the Minister’s promise of meaningful economic opportunities for our people. We know that, given the chance, we have a lot to contribute.”