January 28, 2021
PEGUIS CALLS FOR HALT TO FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL TALKS AND AGREEMENT ON LAKE MANITOBA AND LAKE ST. MARTIN OUTLET CHANNELS PROJECT
Peguis First Nation is demanding a halt to further discussions between the Federal and Provincial Governments on the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels Project and says that Premier Brian Pallister’s announcement that his government is willing to sign a deal behind the backs of First Nations is an insult.
Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson said, “Premier Pallister didn’t even have the courtesy to pick up the phone and let us know about his announcement that has a direct impact on our community. That should tell you all you need to know about the state of relations between us on this massive project.”
“I know that the Premier is sensitive about his travel expenses to Ottawa during the pandemic so he felt he needed something to show for it. But the short-term and long-term effects of this Project on the Lake Manitoba system and eventually the Lake St. Martin and Lake Winnipeg systems has not been adequately assessed or understood. We are aware of models that directly contradict the Environmental Impact Study and we want that information considered before proceeding,” Hudson said.
While the Government press release mentions meetings with Indigenous groups, the Peguis Chief and Council say that hides the fact that the Premier and his Ministers have refused meaningful consultation. They say the Province is ignoring science and refusing to consider other options that would address flooding and pollution more effectively.
Flood waters and agricultural runoff are introduced into the Lake Manitoba system via the Portage Diversion. The intensive agriculture in the Assiniboine Basin means that this water is contaminated with high levels of nutrients, sediment load, and other agricultural chemical residues that threatens the health of the Lake and all who live along it.
“The Outlet Project does not protect our future because the government’s thinking is stuck in the past – when water was plentiful, clean, reliable, and stable; when the main priority was draining wetlands and precious water resources to increase the agricultural land base; a time before industrial farming filled the land and water with pesticides and fertilizers; and before climate change began to create devastating cycles of drought and flood,” Hudson said. “There must be a fundamental shift in the thinking behind government policy and this project. One of the ways to do that is to engage in a meaningful partnership with First Nations and consider measures such as wetland restoration and water storage facilities to stem some of the water flow instead of simply digging another ditch and moving the problem downstream.”
The Peguis Chief and Council say that signing an agreement now is premature and that they will continue to demand meaningful consultation.
Kirk Mann, Communications Director