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Water, highway issues raised in Shoal Lake 39 protest

Thursday July 9, 2009

National Day of Action was marked in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First Nation (Shoal Lake 39) with a peaceful demonstration along the Trans-Canada Highway.

July 9, 2009: Volume 36 #14, Page 10

Community members walked out to the intersection where it meets Highway 673 carrying signs to show Manitoba and Ontario they have a voice and a presence. It was held June 24. The community is located along the provincial border about half an hour outside of Kenora.

“There’s a lot of activity that goes on in our community and on our traditional territory and we are not being included,” said Shoal Lake 39 Chief Eli Mandamin.

Mandamin was referring to the recent construction project along the Trans Canada that is currently underway. Work has begun on parts of the highway that pass through traditional Shoal Lake 39 territory.

The highway is being twinned, but the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) did not consult the Shoal Lake 39 community about the project, Mandamin said.

“The MTO will be actively reaching out to First Nation groups, local businesses and affected property owners,” Emna Dhahak, media liaison officer with Ministry of Transportant, said. “We expect to hold a public information centre (PIC) at Clearwater Bay at the midpoint of the highway project July 28.”

Along with the highway-twinning dispute, there is also an issue with the City of Winnipeg, which gets its drinking water from Shoal Lake 39 territory.

“Winnipeg has been getting their water for free for a hundred years from us,” Mandamin said.

While Shoal Lake 39 has no arrangement with Winnipeg in respect to the water, neighbouring Shoal Lake 40 does.

“We’re being ignored,” he said.

Ken Allen, communications officer for the City of Winnipeg, confirmed an agreement with Shoal Lake 40 was signed in 1989, in which Band 40 receives income from a trust fund established by Manitoba and Winnipeg, but “there is no agreement with Band 39. Winnipeg has authority to withdraw water from Shoal Lake for its water supply based on approvals from the International Joint Commission, the Government of Canada and the Provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.”

“We (Shoal Lake 39) live under non-development provincial zone laws, so we can’t go forward in our own community,” Mandamin said.

These laws prohibit mining resources Shoal Lake 39 has on its territory in order to keep the drinking water clean for Winnipeg.

Mandamin was also joined by Manitoba’s Roseau River Chief, Terrance Nelson. Nelson was recently nominated for National Chief.

“I’m here just to support what Shoal Lake is saying and what they want to get done,” Nelson said. “I think this is a national issue.”

Also standing up with Mandamin along the highway were a host of young people from the community. Mandamin said that he was delighted by their presence because that’s why the demonstration was organized; “So that they can have a future to govern themselves, look after themselves, look after their families and the territory with.”

“Most of the young people here are wanting a future,” Nelson added. “Their resources are being taken out, Winnipeg doesn’t pay for the water, so they (Shoal Lake 39 members) don’t get the benefits from it.”

Mandamin said it is important to show their presence to the rest of Canada.

“Stop ignoring us because we’ve been here, we’re going to be here, we’re going to continue to be here,” he said. “So Manitoba and Ontario you have to come sit with us and make an avenue for us to work out these arrangements that have been going on for far too long.”

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