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Officials announce Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to get its ‘Freedom Road’

WINNIPEG — Tears flowed at the Manitoba legislature as an isolated reserve under one of the country’s longest boil-water advisories received a lifeline to the outside world.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Ottawa is joining other levels of government to build an all-weather road connecting the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to the mainland.

WATCH: Freedom Road announcement

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READ MORE: Bacteria, parasites and toxins – water quality ‘negligence’ at Shoal Lake 40

The reserve on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary was cut off a century ago during construction of an aqueduct that carries fresh water to Winnipeg.

The community has been under a boil-water advisory for 18 years.

WATCH ABOVE: 16×9 looks at water quality in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

An investigation by Global’s 16 x 9 looked at the quality of the water and spoke with professor Eva Pip, from the biology department at the University of Winnipeg who has been studying water quality in Shoal Lake and the surrounding rivers and bays for decades.

Her studies showed not only harmful parasites and bacteria in the water, but also the potential for toxins to be produced from blue-green algae blooms that could be potentially fatal if the toxins are at a high enough concentration.

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READ MORE: How an old recessionary plan may be keeping Canada’s First Nations in ‘third world’ conditions

16 x 9 also found responsibility for monitoring water quality at Shoal Lake and Shoal Lake 40 is confusing as enforcement and monitoring can fall to various governments, including Manitoba, Ontario, the federal government and an international commission. The water has been impacted over the years by raw sewage from neighbouring cottages as well as mining, garbage, logging and farming in the larger community, according to Pip.

Bennett said funding the road is the right thing to do and is long overdue.

Chief Erwin Redsky said the $30-million road means his people will be able to get home safely and will make a water treatment plant affordable.

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