Winnipeg may not have properly compensated bands for water

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11/7/2014

Winnipeg may not have properly compensated bands for water system: commission - Winnipeg Free Press

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Winnipeg Free Press > Local > WINNIPEG MAY NOT HAVE PROPERLY COMPENSATED BANDS FOR WATER SYSTEM: COMMISSION

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A cross-border water watchdog has asked the governments of Canada and the United States to look into the damage done to two Ontario First Nations by Winnipeg's water system.

In a letter sent Monday, the International Joint Commission says it's not clear the city properly compensated the bands, including Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which was rendered an isolated island when Winnipeg built a diversion and intake structure at Shoal Lake a century ago.

"The Commission would appreciate the Governments' determination regarding the City of Winnipeg's compliance with the provisions of the 1914 Order, specifically regarding the use of water and compensation for damages," wrote the IJC's two chairs.

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11/7/2014

Winnipeg may not have properly compensated bands for water system: commission - Winnipeg Free Press

The IJC, set up in 1909, resolves boundary water disputes between the United States and Canada and acts an independent advisor to the two governments. It has weighed in on contentious issues such as water levels on the Great Lakes and North Dakota's Devils Lake outlet. In 1914, when Winnipeg built its aqueduct to Shoal Lake, the IJC issued an order authorizing the project as long as the bands, and any other third parties, were properly compensated for any damage done.

Officials from the IJC visited Shoal Lake over the summer to tour the First Nation, which is isolated by a diversion canal meant to ensure Winnipeg intake structure has access to clean water. No proper, allseason bridge has ever been built over the canal, so the band is an island in summer, stymying any economic development. The IJC investigators also heard now-familiar stories of nine band members who died crossing the lake in winter and learned about the 18-year boil water advisory that has been in place on the reserve.

In a release Thursday, Shoal Lake Chief Erwin Redsky said the IJC's letter is a step in the right direction.

"We welcome international oversight because despite their fine words, Canadians have proven incapable of policing themselves. We look forward to the IJC's process of accountability," he said.

In 1989, the city and Shoal Lake agreed to a compensation agreement that saw the creation of a $6million trust fund, the annual proceeds of which go to the band. But, in recent years, the band has argued the compensation agreement is of little use and has been lobbying for the contruction of an allweather connection off the island as well as the construction of a water treatment plant.

The lingering effects of Winnipeg's water system on Shoal Lake 40 became a civic election issue last month. Rookie Mayor Brian Bowman said he would be willing to renegotiate an agreement with the band.

The IJC's interest in Shoal Lake's troubles was triggered two years ago by the city's plan to sell water to the Rural Municipality of Rosser and CenterPort, a move the two Shoal Lake bands opposed. Those bands threatened to go to court and earned the backing of the IJC, which effectively scuttled Winnipeg's plan to extend water service to CentrePort.

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Winnipeg may not have properly compensated bands for water system: commission - Winnipeg Free Press

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Updated on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 10:56 AM CST: Adds letter 11:25 AM: Updates with when IJC became interested in Shoal Lake's troubles

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Winnipeg may not have properly compensated bands for water system: commission - Winnipeg Free Press

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