New water plant for First Nation under boil water advisories for 22 years

SHOAL LAKE, Ont. — A First Nation on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary is closer to getting safe drinking water.

Government officials are at Shoal Lake 40 to celebrate the start of construction on a new water treatment system.

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The community of 300 residents has been under boil-water advisories since 1997.

The new plant is to be completed by December 2020.

The reserve was cut off from the mainland in 1915 during construction of an aqueduct that supplies Winnipeg with drinking water.

An all-season road dubbed "Freedom Road" opened to the community in June.

Chief Erwin Redsky said in a release that the new water system builds on the success of the road.

"After decades of denial, our people can finally look forward to the day when we, like the citizens of Winnipeg, can turn on our taps and access clean, safe Shoal Lake water," he said.

Indigenous Services Canada is contributing up to $33 million for the project.

Member of Parliament Bob Nault, who represents Ontario's Kenora riding, said every Canadian has the absolute right to turn on their taps and get safe and clean water.

"Anything short of that is unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"While access to safe drinking water is something that perhaps many Canadians take for granted, it is a reality that for far too many First Nations in Ontario and across our country, they have waited much too long to turn on the tap and not have to worry about it."

The federal government has said it wants to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves by March 2021.

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