Shoal Lake 40 First Nation part of world-wide health study destined for United Nations



Julien Gignac
APTN National News
A non-governmental organization has initiated a water-related study about Shoal Lake 40 First Nation as part of a world-wide investigation into healthy communities.

“It’s part of a broader research project on the rights to water and sanitation in First Nations communities in Ontario,” said Amanda Klasing, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “As we were mapping out and thinking about countries that have particular human rights issues related to water and sanitation, Canada came up consistently.”

Shoal Lake 40 has made news for the past year because of its dire situation. The community straddles the Ontario, Manitoba border and has been under a boil water advisory for the past 17 years.

For more than a century, the First Nation, which supplies the city of Winnipeg with drinking water, has strived to survive without the luxury of a road connecting it to the mainland. Members have resorted to crossing the body of water by boat, by foot during the winter. Nine people have perished due to unstable ice.

Because the band doesn’t have the capacity to filter its own water, it uses pump houses with chlorination systems in place.

Klasing is investigating the potential health risks associated with these circumstances.

The findings of the report will be sent to the United Nations in February, she said.

Shoal Lake’s situation has made headway since the latest rounds of media exposure.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger confirmed Saturday that the province will chip in $10-million towards the cost of building what is being called, Freedom Road, a bridge that will link the community to the mainland.

The city of Winnipeg is also offering $10-million.

The project is likely to cost $30-million.

Selinger announced that he will put the required funds in the budget, as per the demands raised by community, he said.

“A lot of Manitobans feel that we’ve been drawing clean water from that area for nearly a hundred years and it’s only right that this community get access to a road, which will then facilitate them having clean water facilities so they can have the same quality of resources that the rest of us are enjoying,” said Selinger. “It’s a question of basic fairness, and we support that view and are trying to contribute to a positive solution.”

Selinger told APTN that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also expressed interest in being part of the solution.

“The bottom line is everybody’s taking a positive attitude on trying to resolve this issue,” he said.

The federal Conservatives are promising $1-million for a design plan.

The construction of “Freedom Road” has been a talking point during the election, however, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau  NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair acknowledging the outstanding funds for the road’s construction and offering assistance if deemed prime minister.

This is not an election issue, nor a political one, according to Chief Erwin Redsky.

“It’s basic survival for my community and we have to work with whoever’s in power,” he said. “We’re willing to work with the current sitting conservatives and we’re going to work with the next government after the election.”

It is not simply another road project, said Redsky, but assurance of the overall health and safety of the community.

“It’s everything. It’s a lifeline that’s been missing for the past hundred years,” he said. “The federal government is front and centre. They created the problem, they need to be front and centre in the solution.”

Jgignac@aptn.ca

 

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