KENORA – Bob Nault, Member of Parliament (Kenora riding), alongside of Shoal Lake 40 Chief, Erwin Redsky, celebrated the groundbreaking for a new water treatment system.
The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, and Dan Vandal, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services who attended the event.
“It is truly my belief that every Northerner and Canadian– regardless of where they live have the absolute right to be able to turn on their tap and drink clean, safe water – anything short of that is unacceptable,” stated Nault. “This new water treatment system will allow Shoal Lake 40 community members to drink water from their taps, improving their everyday lives.”
Nault continued, “While access to safe drinking water is something that perhaps many Canadians take for granted, it is a reality that for far too many First Nations in Ontario and across our country, they have waited much too long to turn on the tap and not have to worry about it.”
“Building on the success of Freedom Road, the awarding of the construction contract for our new water treatment system continues our work with willing partners to correct past wrongs in the spirit of reconciliation. I’d like to thank the Minister and staff of Indigenous Services Canada for their results-based focus, and for the investment in our new water treatment system and for their support for true capacity-building. After decades of denial, our people can finally look forward to the day when we, like the citizens of Winnipeg, can turn on our taps and access clean safe Shoal Lake water,” states Chief Erwin Redsky, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony celebrates the awarding of the contract for construction of a water treatment and distribution system. The new system will end seven long-term drinking water advisories that have been in place since February 1997, and bring a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water to 292 residents.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is contributing up to $33 million for the project, which includes the construction of a water treatment plant, reservoir, raw water intake structure and lift station as well as installation of water main connections and some fire hydrants. Construction of the new water treatment system is anticipated to be completed by December 2020. The successful bidder was a joint venture firm, Shoal Lake 40 Contractors LP/Sigfusson Northern Ltd, following a competitive Indigenous-specific procurement process.
In addition, ISC will invest $605.6 million over four years starting in 2020-2021 to support the operations and maintenance of water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities. The investment includes an additional $184.9 million each year thereafter for operations and maintenance of First Nations’ community water and wastewater assets funded by the Government of Canada. This investment, made through Budget 2019, will help ensure that First Nations infrastructure is better supported throughout its lifespan and will better aid First Nations in maintaining their water and wastewater infrastructure. Funding allocations will be determined in partnership with First Nations.
“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Chief Erwin Redsky and all others who were involved in the success of this project,” concluded Nault. “Along with the recently completed Freedom Road, which provides access to the community, today’s announcement is yet another step in the right direction for Shoal Lake 40.”
“Congratulations to Chief Redsky and the entire community of Shoal Lake 40 on the award of the contract and beginning of the construction phase of your water treatment system. We are proud to partner with you on this project, which will mean that the residents of your community will finally be able to enjoy the benefits of a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water,” states Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P. Minister of Indigenous Services.
“I was honoured to participate in this ground-breaking ceremony today with Chief Redsky and the community of Shoal Lake 40. This is a momentous occasion and one which is long overdue. I look forward to the day when the residents of this community can turn on their taps to access safe, clean water as my family and I do at the other end of the pipe in Winnipeg. I’m also happy to announce this additional investment that will support the operations and maintenance of water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities to help ensure they will continue to have access to safe, reliable drinking water for generations to come,” says Dan Vandal, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services.
- Shoal Lake 40 straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border 55 kilometres west of Kenora and a short distance south of the TransCanada Highway. Freedom Road, which opened June 3, 2019, provides residents with year-round access to the TransCanada Highway.
- Shoal Lake is the water supply source for the City of Winnipeg. Until the recent completion of Freedom Road, Shoal Lake 40’s access to the mainland was cut off for 100 years by Winnipeg’s water infrastructure located on their reserve
- The First Nation has a total population of 653, of whom 292 live on the reserve.
- The community’s water system currently consists of a network of 12 pump houses which do not adequately treat water to applicable standards. The First Nation has never had one centralized water treatment system that services the entire community.
- The Government of Canada is working with First Nations communities to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves by March 2021.
- Since November 2015, 87 long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves have been lifted, with 56 still in effect. During the same time, 133 short-term drinking water advisories (lasting between two and 12 months) have been lifted.
- Budget 2016 provided $1.8 billion over five years toward water and wastewater infrastructure.
- Budget 2017 committed an additional $49.1 million over three years toward improving access to safe drinking water.
- Budget 2018 provided an additional $172.6 million over three years to help accelerate progress on lifting drinking water advisories and to ensure more infrastructure projects can be completed prior to 2021. Budget 2018 also provided support for repairs to high risk water systems, recruitment, training and retention initiatives, and the establishment of innovative First Nations-led service delivery models.
- Budget 2019 commits an additional $739 million over five years, beginning in 2019-2020, with $184.9 million per year ongoing. This investment will support ongoing efforts to eliminate and prevent long-term drinking water advisories by funding urgent repairs to vulnerable water systems and the operation and maintenance of water systems so that First Nations communities can effectively operate and maintain their public drinking water systems.
- Through the Investing in Canada Plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.