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NEWS: First Nation opposes Winnipeg selling drinking water

Chief Erwin Redsky

Chief Erwin Redsky

CBC Radio As It Happens notes, “As the drama of Idle no More plays out across Canada, the struggle of this small First Nation in Manitoba (Shoal Lake #40) has taken on symbolic resonance. Its members were displaced from their original land nearly a century ago, by a federal order that allowed the city of Winnipeg to build an aqueduct to Shoal Lake for clean water. The land they were displaced to was subsequently flooded, and turned into an island. And for the last sixteen years, the Shoal Lake First Nation has been under a ‘boil water’ order, because its members aren’t allowed to touch the water from Shoal Lake. Now the city of Winnipeg wants to start selling the water from Shoal Lake. Erwin Redsky is the Chief of Shoal Lake #40. We reached him on the road in Ignace, Ontario.”

The Globe and Mail reports, “Their community sits on a lake that has been the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water for nearly a century, but residents of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation still rely on bottled water brought in from Kenora, Ont. And despite their location in a region popular with cottagers – about a two-hour drive east from Winnipeg – residents have been unable to benefit from tourism because of concerns that development in the area could diminish the quality of water bound for the capital. Now, a proposal by the City of Winnipeg to sell some of the water it draws from Shoal Lake to neighbouring municipalities has the community frustrated and seeking support from the federal government as it tries to challenge those plans.”

“Chief Erwin Redsky delivered a letter to Stephen Harper on (January 10 – see photo) asking the Prime Minister to uphold the federal government’s treaty obligations to Shoal Lake 40 in the face of anticipated pressure from the City of Winnipeg to expedite the approval process. Mr. Redsky says his community’s situation is symbolic of the broken relationship with the Crown often cited by those involved in the Idle No More movement. With residents displaced and shut out from economic opportunities on their own shores, he says Ottawa has repeatedly failed to uphold its fiduciary duty to protect the community’s interests. …Mr. Redsky said he hopes the federal government will support his community’s efforts to ensure Winnipeg’s plans get a full International Joint Commission review.”

To listen to the CBC Radio interview, scroll down to ‘Manitoba First Nations Water Crisis’ at http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/episode/2013/01/14/monday-france-gay-marriage-aaron-swartz-obituary-zombie-title/. The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/winnipeg-native-band-battle-over-water/article7206899/?ord=1.

For three campaign blogs on this issue dating back to September 2011, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22shoal+lake%22+%2B+%22winnipeg%22. For more on the service contract between the City of Winnipeg and the transnatioal corporation Veolia, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12838.