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Treaty One Chiefs Express Concerns Over Red River Environmental Crisis and Demand Urgent Action from the City of Winnipeg and Government of Manitoba

Failure to Inform Affected Communities Highlights Lack of Responsible Management and Communication on Treaty One Lands and Resources

February 16, 2024 – Treaty No. 1 Territory – Chiefs of the Treaty One Nations are alarmed over the recent environmental crisis affecting the Red River and have expressed concerns that affected First Nations were not properly informed of the leakage and its potential impacts for communities situated near its waters.

The river, a vital waterway that runs through the borders of Minnesota and North Dakota northward into Lake Winnipeg, has had an estimated 165.9 million litres of untreated sewage leak into its waters near the Fort Garry Bridge in a leak which began on February 7, 2024.

This failure of infrastructure, which was identified as problematic in November 2023 after an inspection of two river crossing pipes in the area found a pipe leak under the river, highlights a major failure in the City’s waste management system and a systemic oversight caused by a lack of urgency in addressing critical infrastructural needs.

While acknowledging the efforts to assemble a bypass system to halt the sewage leak, the Treaty One Nations stress the need for a proactive, rather than reactive, response by the City of Winnipeg.

“Our First Nations rely on our waters for sustenance, yet our lands and waters are increasingly encroached upon, hindering our ability to practice traditional livelihoods,” said Treaty One Nations Chairperson and Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Gordon BlueSky. “We face ongoing harassment within our territories as we harvest for sustenance—despite claims of environmental and conservation efforts, this unchecked activity continues with little regulation, enforcement, or consultation with surrounding First Nations.”

The severity of this spill, surpassing any in the last decade, demands immediate action to mitigate the current damage and a comprehensive review and overhaul of existing infrastructure and maintenance protocols to prevent such incidents in the future. Chief Gordon BlueSky added, “We are very concerned by the inadequate protection of our lands and resources, which fails to uphold the Treaty relationship envisioned by our Ancestors. The Treaty One Nations will continue to examine the liabilities that environmental crisis such as this create as well as the legal options to confront and battle the ongoing environmental degradation of our territory.”

Therefore, the Treaty One Nations have urgently called upon the Government of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to:

  1. Immediately complete repair work to stop the leak.
  2. Conduct a full investigation into the causes of this incident.
  3. Engage in meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities on planning and decision-making processes related to environmental management and infrastructure development in their traditional territories.
  4. Immediately prioritize an investment in modernization and improvement of wastewater infrastructure.
  5. Commit to transparent reporting and accountability measures regarding environmental incidents and steps required to address them.

Leadership of the Treaty One Nations emphasize that the health of rivers and lands is intrinsically linked to the well-being of all living beings and hope to work with government and all affected communities to protect and preserve our shared environment for current and future generations.




For media inquiries, please contact:

Vic Savino
Director of Communications, Treaty One Nations