Shoal Lake #40 will block Winnipeg’s attempt to sell water
Shoal Lake #40 is clear on one thing – it is not going to roll over and let the city of Winnipeg have its way with the water of Shoal Lake.
The Treaty #3 First Nation announced on Dec. 12 that it plans block Winnipeg at the International Joint Commission (IJC) to prevent the city from selling Shoal Lake water for profit.
“We have made every effort to tell the city of Winnipeg that they don’t have the legal authority to proceed on their plans to make money selling water from Shoal Lake,” Shoal Lake #40 Chief Erwin Redsky said. “Now the city has decided to try to do an end-run around us and go to the IJC to get their permission. We’ll be there to block them.”
The move to the IJC comes after more than a year of disputes between Winnipeg and the two First Nations living on Shoal Lake – Shoal Lake #40 and Iskatewizaagegan #39.
In October 2011 Iskatewizaagegan #39 held a four-day, 300 km march from their reserve to Winnipeg to protest the city’s plan to sell water from Shoal Lake.
Iskatewizaagegan #39 has also launched a court case against Winnipeg over the situation. Shoal Lake #40 has requested to be a party in the case.
Ontario granted Winnipeg access to Shoal Lake water for municipal purposes in 1913. The federal government and the IJC also issued water access authorization around the same time.
The agreement led to Winnipeg constructing the $13.5 million Shoal Lake Aqueduct, which started providing water to residents of Winnipeg in 1919.
Both Iskatewizaagegan #39 and Shoal Lake #40 gave no consent nor received any compensation for the provision of their traditional land and water to Winnipeg.
Now the issue has flared up over Winnipeg’s plan to build water pipes to neighbouring municipalities of Rosser and West St. Paul, so that the city can sell Shoal Lake water to the two towns.
Despite the First Nations opposition, Winnipeg is taking their case to build the water pipes to the IJC.
Redsky said Shoal Lake #40 will meet the city there.
“We warned the city over a year ago that they did not have the right to use our land and water for profit,” Redsky said. “We have been ignored over and over again.”
Redsky added that his First Nation is not opposed to the city’s plan to sell Shoal Lake water to neighbouring municipalities, but that Shoal Lake #40 wants to sit down to discuss the First Nation’s role and compensation in the provision of the water.
“There are a lot of opportunities at the city’s end of the pipe, yet my community has been impacted and will have more impacts at our end of the pipe,” Redsky said. “That goes against our understanding of the treaty, where we will work together and both benefit from the land and resources.”
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