Shoal Lake 40 First Nation has fresh water

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After more than 20 years of boil water advisories, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, a community on the Ontario-Manitoba border has clean water. Officials celebrated the opening of a water treatment facility and the end of water advisories for the community last week.

Despite drawing water from the same source as the City of Winnipeg, this is the first time a centralized water treatment facility has served the community.

Construction of the new $33-million water treatment facility and system started in 2019. Now all homes in the community have access to clean water in their taps.

“It’s unbelievable and it’s also about damn time,” said Vernon Redsky, chief of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

About two dozen people from the community as well numerous dignitaries, including federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, attended the official opening event, calling it “a new day” for Shoal Lake 40.

Shoal Lake 40, which straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border, has 667 registered members, including about 300 who live on reserve. They have been under drinking water advisories since 1997.

Construction of Freedom Road in 2019, a 24-kilometre all-season road connecting the community to Trans-Canada Highway improved access in and out of the area.

He said he’s been working in the industry for about 10 years, but never thought he’d be able to do so in his home community.

Still, many First Nations across Canada are still facing boil water advisories — 32 as of Aug. 28, according to Indigenous Services Canada.

Miller says the Liberals are still committed to meeting their goal of ending all of these advisories, although he can’t say by when.

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