The Canada-U.S. body governing the lakes and rivers that straddle the border says the City of Winnipeg would be violating an international agreement if it sells water to neighbouring municipalities.
The City of Winnipeg hopes to extend water services to a section of the Rural Municipality of Rosser in order to allow the development of the CentrePort trade hub. Two northwestern Ontario First Nations have mounted a legal challenge against this plan, arguing it would violate the terms of a century-old agreement governing the use of water from Shoal Lake.
In a letter dated April 18, the International Joint Commission offered a "preliminary opinion" that such a move would place the city in non-compliance of the agreement.
City officials have opined the sale of water beyond its border would be allowed because of the precedent set by the former Greater Winnipeg Water District, an arrangement that saw the City of Winnipeg service suburbs that were not part of the city prior to the Unicity amalgamation of 1972.
The International Joint Commission, however, noted the Greater Winnipeg Water District’s responsibilities have been taken over by the City of Winnipeg.
In a statement released on Monday, Chief Erwin Redsky of Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation said he is satisfied with the IJC’s position.
City of Winnipeg spokesman Steve West said the city is reviewing the brief letter.