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Manitoba First Nations suing over Lake Winnipeg pollution

A group of First Nations is suing all three levels of government over the pollution of Lake Winnipeg.

On Wednesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) announced that the eight First Nations bordering the lake have filed a $4 billion lawsuit against the federal and provincial governments, as well as the City of Winnipeg. The communities involved in the claim are Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Black River First Nation, Poplar River First Nation, Sagkeeng Anicinabe Nation, Berens River First Nation, Hollow Water First Nation, Misipawistik Cree Nation and Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation.

According to these First Nations, the pollution of Lake Winnipeg and the Red River through sewage spills and continuous discharges is a recurring issue. The communities note the most recent incident took place in February when over 221.2 million litres of raw sewage spilled into the Red River.

“When the Department of Indian Affairs is telling me that the water coming out of my lagoon is cleaner than the water in Lake Winnipeg, that’s a problem,” said Chief Heidi Cook of Misipawistik Cree Nation at a news conference on Wednesday.

The First Nations note this legal action is not only about addressing pollution, but also their fundamental rights. They note the lawsuit highlights the governments’ fiduciary duties owed to the First Nations.

With this lawsuit, the First Nations are hoping to receive compensation for financial losses incurred due to the pollution. The communities remain open to speaking with all levels of government.

“As First Nations people and as to our teachings, we protect the water,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Unfortunately at this time, this has to happen.”

Merrick added that the time for apologies is over, and that the communities are now looking for action from the government.

CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the government for comment.

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