May 29, 2012 7:08 pm
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Iskatewizaagegan First Nation – Today, Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse will be joining Shoal Lake #39 Chief Eli Mandamin, his community members, as well as Grand Chief Diane Kelly of the Grand Council of Treaty 3, on a walk to protest the Winnipeg/Manitoba plan to continue extracting water from Iskatewizaagegan territory without consent. The walk will begin at the First Nation and will finish, on Thursday, October 6, at the legislative building in Winnipeg. The Chief and Council of the First Nation have growing concerns over the Manitoba/Winnipeg plan to sell the water it draws from Shoal Lake to other communities in Manitoba.

In July, Winnipeg and Manitoba agreed to split the cost of extending Winnipeg’s water and sewage-treatment services. The city also hopes to sell water and sewage-treatment services to neighbouring communities. The Iskatewizaagegan First Nation asked Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz to postpone their water and sewage treatment extension plan, asserting that water levels on Shoal Lake are kept artificially high. However, both the city and the province have chosen to ignore the concerns of the First Nation. Iskatewizaagegan is seeking compensation in the amount of $124 million per year for water drawn from Shoal Lake by the City of Winnipeg. The amount requested is derived from the profit generated by the existing commercial and residential sale of water from the lake. The community has experienced impacts on wild rice harvesting and lakeside erosion from both flooding and extraction.

“Since the arrival of the first European settlers it has been our people’s position that we would share our resources with them to ensure their survival. This is that same position we held when we negotiated what is now known as the Paypom Treaty. The fact that we negotiated as Treaty partners affirms our sovereignty over the natural resources and wealth in our homelands” stated Chief Mandamin.

Last year, Canada “endorsed” the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although this endorsement has largely proven to be superficial, First Nations in this country, including the Iskatewizaagegan First Nation, continue to make reference to the articles of the Declaration. As noted by Regional Chief Toulouse, “The Anishinaabe of Iskatewizaagegan have indicated they feel their human rights are being violated by the continued extraction of water, and future plans to sell the water, from the Shoal Lake. You would think that would be a serious enough complaint that governments would come to the table for discussion.”

The community at Iskatewizaagegan has made it clear that they will engage in non-violent acts of resistance in order to ensure their way of life is protected and restitution is provided for any incursion on their ability to engage in their traditional activities. As observed by Chief Mandamin, “We understand that the settlers view water as a commodity, the critical fuel of their economic engine. But the water is not their relative, it is ours. For too long they have assumed that they can make agreements amongst themselves and take our water without consequences.”

For More information, please contact:
Andre Morriseau, Communications Officer

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