Isolated reserve with no clean water to make case before United Nations

A reserve cut off from the mainland and under a boil-water advisory for almost two decades is taking its case to the United Nations.

WINNIPEG — A reserve cut off from the mainland and under a boil-water advisory for almost two decades is taking its case to the United Nations.

Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which straddles the Manitoba-Ontario boundary, became isolated a century ago during construction of an aqueduct which carries water to Winnipeg. The reserve has no all-weather road and has been without clean water for 17 years.

A delegation from the reserve is expected to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, in February to make its case to a United Nations committee on economic, social and cultural rights.

The First Nation is also part of a worldwide investigation by Human Rights Watch. That review is to be presented to the same UN committee reviewing Canada’s human rights record.

Chief Erwin Redsky said his delegation will outline “all the human rights violations we suffer daily,” including a lack of clean water, no freedom of movement and inadequate health care and education.

“We’re going to tell the world what’s going on in Canada here, specifically to Shoal Lake 40, what’s been going on for 100 years now,” he said.

Since there is no permanent road, people from the reserve risk their lives every winter walking across the ice to get to and from the mainland. Some have died.

The aging ferry that residents rely on in the summer failed to pass government inspection last spring, which prompted the reserve to move out elders and declare a state of emergency. The ferry was patched up, but will need more extensive repairs.

Children who reach high school have to move off the reserve to continue their education. Elders and those who are sick don’t have access to proper health care since many medical professionals won’t risk getting to the reserve, Redsky said.

Many residents leave the community regularly just to take a shower at community centres in Kenora, Ont.

“Canada is one of the richest countries in the world,” Redsky said. “This should not be happening.”

Residents have been lobbying for years for what they call a permanent Freedom Road into the community. Public support and pressure has been growing among multi-faith groups, social justice activists and the business community.

The City of Winnipeg, Manitoba and federal government have put up $1 million each for a design study, which is to be completed in January. An all-weather road is expected to cost $30 million, shared by the three levels of government.

Winnipeg has said it would help pay for construction, but only the provincial NDP government has committed to earmarking cash in its upcoming budget.

The federal NDP and Liberal party have promised to fund Ottawa’s share of road construction if victorious in the Oct. 19 election.

Redsky said he hopes the United Nations can increase pressure on Canada and Winnipeg to do what’s right for the people of Shoal Lake 40.

“Once we get road access to our community, we hope to push for a water treatment plant and push for economic development which we desperately need.”

Amanda Klasing, senior researcher with the New-York-based Human Rights Watch, said Shoal Lake 40 is one of four Ontario First Nations that will be studied in depth for her report to the United Nations committee.

No conclusions have been reached yet, she said.

“There has been a lot of public focus on the water advisories and concerns, but there certainly are sanitation issues … that I haven’t seen reported as widely,” Klasing said.

Just Posted

Sneak Peak: Tour properties with Red Deer County and look at backyards, acreages, gardens

Snoop around people’s backyards without any guilt on Red Deer County’s beautification… Continue reading

New RDC president has three decades of experience working at colleges and universities

Peter Nunoda says he’s ‘excited’ to help transition the college into a university

Wildfires put more people on the run in northern Alberta High Level on alert

HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — Wildfires have forced more people from their homes… Continue reading

Manitoba teen killed when dirt bike and train collide east of Winnipeg

OAKBANK, Man. — A 15-year-old boy was killed on the weekend when… Continue reading

Pro-pipelines rally draws crowd to City Hall

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Canada missing out on billions in revenue

Blair says more gun-control action needed, signals no new steps before election

OTTAWA — Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair says more must be done… Continue reading

Pricey tours of decaying Titanic shipwreck delayed until June 2020

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Adventure tourists who paid $168,000 each to help… Continue reading

Police searching for suspect after shooting at Toronto Raptors rally

Toronto police are still looking for a suspect after Monday’s shooting that… Continue reading

The corporate winners and losers from the Toronto Raptors’ historic win

We The North mania spread across Canada as the Toronto Raptors created… Continue reading

Efforts continue to raise profile of New Brunswick sprint champion from 1900s

HALIFAX — A New Brunswick sprinter who achieved world-class success in the… Continue reading

Campaign to eradicate rodents puts other animals at risk

The bird was a female cardinal. It was on the ground and… Continue reading

Opinion: Throwing cold water on fee for calling firefighters

There’s never any upside to adversity. Whether it’s the loss of a… Continue reading

‘This is our story:’ Winnipeg General Strike commemorated on screen, stage

WINNIPEG — A moment in history that changed Canada forever is headed… Continue reading

Most Read