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Canal that supplies clean water to Winnipeg blocks progress in Shoal Lake nation

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The Shoal Lake First Nation wants the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to acknowledge human rights abuses it says it has suffered because of a water diversion that provides water to Winnipeg.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The Shoal Lake First Nation wants the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to acknowledge human rights abuses it says it has suffered because of a water diversion that provides water to Winnipeg. Photo Store

SHOAL LAKE 40 FIRST NATION - A proper road into the island reserve of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation would help right a century of wrongs, said band chief Erwin Redsky.

The band was relocated in the early 1900s when the aqueduct was built to send drinking water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. Then, 100 years ago, a canal was built that effectively cut the new village off from the mainland, isolating the band and stymieing any economic growth.

Making matters worse, while Winnipeg has some of the safest drinking water in Canada, the reserve that straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border has been under a boil-water advisory for nearly 20 years.

"It's killing my community but life on the other end is booming," Redsky said. "There's beautiful buildings, jobs, clean water, opportunity."

Redsky said few Winnipeggers realize the damage done to Shoal Lake 40 so that the city could have drinking water. To raise awareness, the chief invited provincial cabinet minister Kevin Chief, city water and waste staff, officials from Amnesty International and several people from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The museum has rankled band members because it's expected to explore water as a human right along with other indigenous rights and it will draw on Shoal Lake water to service the museum.

Museum staff said there are no current plans to explore Shoal Lake 40's history in an exhibit but that displays are changeable and it could be an idea for the future.

In the meantime, the band says a permanent bridge over the canal and a 28 kilometre road to the Trans-Canada Highway would allow the band to build a water treatment plant and create jobs for the community. So far, the city and the province have committed $1 million each for design work but the federal government has yet to commit funds.

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 3:11 PM CDT: corrects typo

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