Manitoba Chiefs react to sewage leak in Red River

As sewage continues to flow into the Red River from a pipe leak at Fort Garry Bridge, area Indigenous leaders’ concerns are surging, saying this could cause an environmental crisis with effects flowing into area First Nations waters.

“I was absolutely horrified to hear about the sewage spill in Winnipeg that has been going on and is still going on,” said Chief Heidi Cook, Misipawistik Cree Nation.

The City of Winnipeg has confirmed that the second bypass pump is now installed, but will need some time to be fully reliable over the next few days and could still see intermittent spills.

As for the Province, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Tracy Schmidt says her department has launched an investigation with the environmental compliance and enforcement branch and will continue to observe water quality to help assess the impacts of the spill.

Meanwhile, some First Nation leaders including Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Gordon BlueSky are very frustrated. 

“Someone within the government should have notified our First Nations, especially the ones standing behind me here that pull their water directly from Lake Winnipeg,” said Chief BlueSky.

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick echoed this sentiment saying the Province gave their word that it would be inclusive of First Nation Leaders at the table and not involving them in something that could affect area First Nations water is not okay.

“If it happened with water coming in from Shoal Lake there would be a state emergency for the City of Winnipeg, so anything that happens in this Province that affects our First Nations we need to be informed,” said Grand Chief Merrick.

Poplar River First Nation Chief Vera Mitchell says this could affect not only their drinking water but the ecosystem in the river that they so heavily rely on, saying the City needs to take accountability.

“What is the province going to do to the City to have them pay for this cleanup, there should be a financial penalty,” said Chief Mitchell.

Chief BlueSky says going forward they need to be involved in every aspect of the investigation.

“Immediate action needs to start happening, we need to start having conversations with this government and all levels of government in terms of the protection of our natural resources, a resource that has been here since the beginning of time.”

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