Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Legal fight to erupt over Winnipeg water

Shoal Lake bands count on commission's ruling

  • Print

A Shoal Lake First Nation caused a stir last October when it sent the City of Winnipeg an $8-million bill, the amount it calculates the city bills its residents for water usage every month.

It was the start of what has become a year-long legal battle over the City of Winnipeg's right to draw water from Shoal Lake, the source of the city's drinking water, and send it to neighbouring municipalities. For Winnipeg, sharing the service is critical for the development of the CentrePort industrial hub in the RM of Rosser, north of the city.

Without the water, CentrePort growth could be affected, and that's why Shoal Lake's water was a big story this year and will remain so in 2013.

The city was quick to dismiss claims raised by two Shoal Lake First Nations that alleged Winnipeg does not have the authority to take additional water for its neighbours.

Mayor Sam Katz said a court challenge would not hamper the city's plan to extend its water pipes. Chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl said the city has done its due diligence and he feels "comfortable with our position."

The international commission disagrees.

In December, the City of Winnipeg announced it set aside a plan to extend water pipes into the RMs of Rosser and West St. Paul after receiving a letter from the International Joint Commission, which raised undisclosed issues. The Canada-U.S. body, which resolves cross-border water disputes, said in the Sept. 20 letter to the city that water is not to be shared beyond Winnipeg's municipal boundary.

Ontario gave Winnipeg permission to draw water from Shoal Lake for municipal purposes in an order-in-council in 1913, and the federal government and the International Joint Commission also issued water-taking authorizations in 1913 and 1914. The IJC's letter said these orders gave Winnipeg permission to draw water from Shoal Lake "exclusively" for city residents.

City council has asked the IJC for an expedited decision on the matter.

Despite the revelation, what struck me is the fact Winnipeg officials have still not admitted First Nations leaders may have raised a valid point. First Nations leaders said they have still not heard from Winnipeg officials and allege the city continues to ignore their concerns.

"I don't think it's fair. We want a fair deal," Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Chief Eli Mandamin said following Winnipeg city council's December meeting.

Mandamin's community of 300 on-reserve residents is located at the east end of Indian Bay, a section of Shoal Lake that straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border. The Winnipeg Aqueduct intake structure is located at the west end of the lake by Shoal Lake No. 40, a separate First Nation.

Both communities are involved in a court challenge against the city's water-sharing move.

In an affidavit filed in the Court of Queen's Bench, Shoal Lake No. 40 Chief Erwin Redsky said the federal government allowed Winnipeg to expropriate about 3,300 acres of the reserve's land in Manitoba to divert water from Shoal Lake for its residents in 1915. As a result, the First Nation relocated its main village to the Ontario side of the lake. Winnipeg built a canal between the Indian and Snowshoe bays as part of the water project, forcing First Nation residents to travel by boat, barge or winter road if they wish to go elsewhere.

Redsky's affidavit said the aqueduct has curtailed the community's economic development.

Shoal Lake No. 39 has said the water level is kept artificially high with water from the Lake of the Woods watershed so Winnipeg can pump drinking water. He said the raised water level has destroyed areas in which fish spawned and wild rice was harvested.

Mandamin said his community does not want to damage Winnipeg's economy, but wants to ensure theirs can develop, too. He said the community needs to ensure its culture and way of life, and has repeatedly asked to negotiate a fair deal with the City of Winnipeg.

"It's taken our human rights away," Mandamin said. "They've got to stop ignoring us."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2012 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Lawless in the Morning (March 30): Jets believe they belong

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of Manitoba Hydro's deal to create a surface-parking lot to allow for construction of a new substation?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google