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New water rights report taps Anishinaabe elder testimony

Report on water rights comes same day as federal government announcement on water treatment plant

CBC News

A new report on access to safe drinking water was released at the University of Manitoba on Wednesday, in an effort to shed light on a growing issue on Manitoba’s First Nations.

More than 90 First Nations in Canada, the majority in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, are dealing with contaminated tap water, officials with the conference said.

Indigenous lawyer Aimee Craft has gathered stories from Anishinaabe elders on traditional laws about protecting water.

On Wednesday, the efforts of Craft were released as a report at the Create H2O and Water Rights conference.

“The water from the river then tasted a lot better than the water now, even from the taps,” said Victoria Caibaiosai, an elder from Sagamok First Nation, who once collected drinking water for her First Nation on Lake Huron.

Craft said Caibaiosai’s and others’ stories were gathered to teach people water isn’t owned, rather it’s a responsibility.

“[We are] accessing these principals, talking to elders, thinking about their responsibility to water and then taking action,” said Craft, a lawyer with the public interest law centre.

New water treatment plant to serve Headingley

The same day the report was released, the federal government announced partial funding for a new water treatment plant in Headingley, a pipeline from Headingley to Rosser and a new pump house and reservoir in Rosser.

The project will connect about 2,000 households to a treated municipal water supply, as well as the Headingley Correctional Centre and CentrePort Canada.

Officials said the federal government is willing to cover about one-third of eligible costs for the first phase of the project.

The Province of Manitoba is expected to cover one-third of the project, while the final third will be covered by the Cartier Regional Water Co-Operative and the municipalities who will benefit from the project.

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