April 28, 2016 6:13 am
Updated: April 28, 2016 7:57 pm

Justin Trudeau visits Shoal Lake 40 First Nation

WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to meet with leaders at the reserve and discuss the development of "Freedom Road" which will help ease the community's isolation. Cole Deakin has more.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Shoal Lake 40 First Nation on Thursday.

During the visit, he saw first-hand the daily struggles of residents on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary.

The visit is for Trudeau to take part in a documentary being done in the area by VICE news. No public or other media access is being granted during the trip.

Chief Erwin Redsky says Trudeau also visited schoolchildren and watched a hockey game at the local arena.

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The reserve, on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary, was cut off a century ago during construction of an aqueduct which carries fresh water to Winnipeg. The community has been under a boil-water advisory for 18 years.

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

In December the Liberal government committed to seeing an all-weather road built to connect Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to the mainland. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said funding the road is the right thing to do and is long overdue.

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

The people of Shoal Lake 40 depend on an aging ferry to get to the mainland in the summer and use a treacherous ice road in the winter.

The former Conservative government refused to commit to help fund construction of a road, despite agreement from the province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to split the cost three ways.

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.

READ MORE: Many First Nations communities without access to clean drinking water

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.

With files from The Canadian Press

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