2011 – Winnipeggers enjoy fresh water from Shoal Lake with the turn of a tap. But the First Nation hugging its shores will have to keep hauling in drinking water from Kenora after Ottawa shelved its plans for a water treatment plant.
Image The Shoal Lake aqueduct intake structure, which draws in drinking water that has supplied Winnipeg since 1919. (MIKE.APORIUS@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)
Winnipeggers enjoy fresh water from Shoal Lake with the turn of a tap. But the First Nation hugging its shores will have to keep hauling in drinking water from Kenora after Ottawa shelved its plans for a water treatment plant.
Ottawa had set aside $7.6 million for a plant that has been discussed with the First Nation since 1998. But this fall, after new construction costs showed the project would cost nearly twice as much to build, Ottawa told the First Nation it was a no-go.
“On Oct. 22, they asked us for a meeting and out of the blue, we were notified at the meeting, ‘Sorry, we’re cancelling the project. It costs too much and there are too few people,’ ” Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky said. “It took us off guard,” Redsky said. “Completely.”
In 1919, the aqueduct to carry clean lake water directly into Winnipeg was finished. It is built over an old native burial ground. Between 1912-1919, the original Ojibwa village, located at the mouth of the Falcon River at Shoal Lake, was displaced and moved to a man-made island. A parcel of the band’s traditional land, 3,000 acres, became City of Winnipeg property and split the reserve into three separate parcels.
Ottawa selected a peninsula across the lake from the old village as the site of the Shoal Lake 40 reserve.
Government officials ordered the diversion canal to be dug across nearby narrows, effectively creating an island and isolating the reserve.
“Here we have a southern band that’s living in a northern isolated situation,” said former City of Winnipeg councillor and former Wolseley MLA Harold Taylor, now general manager of East-Regional Development. Taylor is helping to broker an alliance between the RM of Reynolds and Shoal Lake. He described the history of Shoal Lake as “shocking.” Sources: Shoal Lake’s Man-Made Island Power Point presentation; the Manitoba Historical Society website; the tripartite and parallel agreements
1989 TRIPARTITE AGREEMENT:
WHO: The city, province and Shoal Lake 40, and also Ottawa through a parallel but separate agreement with Shoal Lake 40.
WHAT: Not a compensation package, but a three-party “environmental management agreement,” with Shoal Lake 40 responsible for protecting water quality as long as the city and province would support Shoal Lake 40 in creating economic development opportunities.
The tripartite agreement took effect once a parallel agreement was signed between the federal government and Shoal Lake 40 in 1990. Under that parallel agreement, Ottawa threw in $2.5 million to build a sewage system, but water is still untreated. A statement in the tripartite agreement signed by Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg: “We shall make every effort to promote economic development beneficial to the band in the Shoal Lake area.”