For the first time in 24 years, the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation can finally drink the water from their taps as seven Long Term Water Advisories have been lifted.
The grand opening of their new water treatment and distribution facility was opened yesterday bringing joy and happiness with it to the people of the community.
Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller joined SL 40 Chief Vernon Redsky and Kenora Liberal candidate David Bruno on this historic day.
“It’s a new day for them. This was not only the inauguration of a state of the art $33 million facility but also the culmination of a quarter of a century of being on a Long Term Water Advisory, which is unacceptable in a place like Canada,” said Miller.
“They fought hard for this. This is really foremost a victory for the people of Shoal Lake, when it's been 24 years there’s a whole generation that has grown up under a Long Term Water Advisory, so that has impacts and these impacts have been felt through the community,” added Miller.
A ceremony was held within the community to celebrate the monumental day.
“They’re psyched and for everyone, this is a happy day. There are a lot of challenges that we still need to tackle together as a team, but this is a day to celebrate,” explained Miller.
Since 1997, the community has lived with the burden of not having safe clean drinking water after cryptosporidium was detected in the lake. Cryptosporidium can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.
According to data from Indigenous Services Canada, since 2015, 109 long-term water advisories have been lifted. In saying that, though, 51 long-term drinking water advisories are still in effect in 32 communities.
Northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of communities in Canada suffering from long-term drinking water advisories. In NWO, 18 communities are dealing with the reality of having long-term drinking water advisories in place.
When Minister Miller was asked why it took 24 years to give Shoal Lake 40 clean drinking water, he said there’s no excuse.
“There’s no excuse in a country likes ours. We’re Canada, we’re one of the best countries in the world, yet there are communities that have been on boil water advisories for far too long,” noted Miller
“That’s the Canada we live in. The Prime Minister stood up in 2015 and said enough is enough, and that was a shot to our own civil service, our own political will. We’re overcoming it progressively and it starts with partnerships with communities,” says Miller.
A water treatment facility became a reality in 2015 when a $30 million commitment was made by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to build an all-weather road into Shoal Lake 40, which was named Freedom Road.
Freedom Road was completed in 2019, which kick-started the community to bring in the resources and supplies needed to build the facility along with a new K-8 school.
For years, the residents of Winnipeg have benefited from the water of Shoal Lake 40 as that is where the city pulled a majority of their own drinking water.
Since 1919, around 100 million gallons of water have been taken from Shoal Lake 40 by the City of Winnipeg.