Chevonne Green grew up in Shoal Lake 40 and has hauled water to her house her entire life – even through her pregnancy with her daughter Talia.
“I’m 28 so I don’t know what it’s like to have clean water,” she said. “So this is new for me and for my daughter.”
On Wednesday, after decades of suffering without clean, safe drinking water, the new $29-million treatment facility was turned on and Greene and the people of Shoal Lake 40 can now drink from their taps.
“It’s about damn time,” said Chief Vernon Redsky. “The reality of the project coming to an end is surreal.”
The facility will bring clean water to the roughly 300 people that live there.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller was on hand for the opening. Canada paid for the project in the small community which sits on the border of Manitoba and Ontario.
The dark history with water and land access goes back 100 years, after an aqueduct was built to send water to the City of Winnipeg.
The construction of the aqueduct cut the community’s access to land and water in 1919.
Residents have protested and fought to get these human rights issues on the national agenda. Two years ago they welcomed Freedom Road – a year round path that leads to the Trans Canada Highway.
With Freedom Road and the lifting of boil water advisories, Redsky says they can finally start to move forward.
“We still need to do more catch-up on some of the things we are far behind on. This is just the beginning.”
Chevonne Greene is looking forward to that first glass of water.
She decided to throw tobacco into the waters of her home community, as a symbol of a hopeful future for her and her infant daughter.
“[These kids] don’t know what’s happening, but they will know one day when they are older.”
Numbers from Indigenous Services Canada from Aug. 28 show there were 51 long-term drinking water advisories in 32 communities. Some 109 advisories had been lifted since November 2015.
The community also celebrated the opening of the brand new Harvey Redsky Memorial School, a kindergarten to Grade 8 school, named after a beloved band member and former custodian in the community.