Shoal Lake band member says ‘Canada needs to smarten up’ following visit to UN


Linda Redsky, 55, with her nephew Adam. AUSTIN GRABISH / FOR METRO

The UN’s heard their story, but for now band members living on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation must wait.

My follow to Linda Redsky’s trip to Geneva for Metro is below.

By Austin Grabish For Metro
She’s shared her community’s story with the world, but for now, Linda Redsky and other Shoal Lake 40 band members must wait.

Redsky was to return to Shoal Lake yesterday following a weeklong trip to Geneva, Switzerland with Human Rights Watch and Samantha Redsky, another band member.

Linda, 55, told a UN committee on economic, social, and cultural rights that “Canada needs to leap and not shuffle” when it comes to First Nations water rights.

She explained to the committee how she must travel off reserve just to bathe her 14-year-old nephew Adam who otherwise breaks out with eczema from the First Nation’s water, which is tainted with parasites.

He just breaks out, she said while shaking her head showing Metro the boy’s eczema Sunday.

Shoal Lake 40 provides the City of Winnipeg with clean water, but lies in isolation on an island cradling the Manitoba-Ontario border and has been under a boil-water advisory itself for almost two decades.

The grandmother said while her community’s fought for years for change, she didn’t realize her human rights were being violated “on so many levels,” until she arrived at the UN.

She said Human Rights Watch didn’t mince words when presenting about Shoal Lake 40, and neither did she in an interview Sunday.

“Canada needs to smarten up and start dealing with these issues,” Redsky said.

“All these years they’ve been kind of dragging their feet whenever we bring up our issues nothing really gets done about it.”

She said she was disappointed to hear Canadian representatives tell the UN they would need five years to correct issues brought forward by Shoal Lake and other First Nations last week.

“We need to be treated with dignity and not be put on the back shelve,” she said.


Manitoba’s largest high school lacking handi-bus

‘Discrimination,’ says mother

By Austin Grabish

Sharon Machinski has one wish she’d like to see come true before her daughter finishes high school.

The Winnipeg mother wants a mobility vehicle to be purchased for students in wheelchairs at Sisler High School.

“I would love to see that van pull up at school I really would,” Machinski said.

Machinski says the absence of a handi-van is leaving students like her daughter Laura, 19, behind.

Machinski said her daughter, who lives with cerebral palsy, has been unable to attend a school work placement that provides social and pre-employment skills due to the absence of a mobility vehicle.

She asked the Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees Monday night to consider putting $65,000 aside for a three-person mobility van that her daughter and other students at St. John’s High School could use.

Machinski said the division has mobility buses that transport students to and from school, but during the day they are unavailable so a special vehicle must be called, and the service is often unreliable.

Trustee Dean Koshelanyk said he was ‘deeply concerned’ to hear students are missing programming off-campus that’s part of their curriculum.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Koshelanyk said.

Machinski said she’s gotten used to seeing her daughter miss out on opportunities other students have, but that still angers her.

“I would call it discrimination,” she said.

Machinski said she sometimes picks Laura directly up from school, so she can attend her work placement, but then “I feel guilty because I know I’m leaving four other students behind.”

Trustee Chris Broughton asked Machinski if she’d support a pilot project addressing the issue, and Machinski nodded and said she absolutely would.

She told a reporter she’s hopeful the board will do something before her daughter ages out of the school system.

“They seem to be very supportive.”

But trustee Mike Babinsky warned board matters take time and a van may not be purchased before September.

“The wheels around here sometimes don’t move as quickly as we’d want them to,” he said.

The board has until March 15 to complete its 2016 / 2017 operating budget.

The $396.5-million budget is calling for a five per cent tax increase from property owners, which is equivalent to roughly $62 for a home valued at $203,900.

Twitter: @AustinGrabish

UN committee to hear plight of waterless Shoal Lake First Nation Monday

Canada is ‘struggling’ to meet human rights obligations, according to a report obtained by Metro

The world is about to hear from Shoal Lake 40 band members.

Below is a copy of my story that ran nationally today for Metro Canada.

By Austin Grabish For Metro

Linda Redsky is packing her bags, leaving her isolated community, and preparing to share the plight of Shoal Lake 40 on the world stage.

Redsky and possibly a second band member will join Human Rights Watch at the United Nations in Geneva on Monday as the rights watchdog presents a report detailing its preliminary findings on Shoal Lake 40 and three other Ontario reserves.

The presentation will be made to the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights, which is reviewing Canada’s track record on human rights.

The group started investigating living conditions on Shoal Lake, Neskantaga, Batchewana, and Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, last year after Shoal Lake started making headlines.

The reserve, which lies on the Ontario-Manitoba border, provides the City of Winnipeg with clean drinking water, but has been under a boil-water advisory itself for nearly two decades and is cut off from the mainland.

Redsky, 55, has fallen through an ice road while trying to cross into the community during the winter, and recently had to temporarily relocate off-reserve to Kenora, Ont. so her foster son could attend high school.

She said she’s seen the plight of her community get worse over the years “as I’ve watched the people continue to go across.”

“I’ve seen vehicles going through. The loss of life,” she said.

Redsky said the boil-water advisory has made it almost impossible to bathe on the island.

“My boy, for instance, he’s got eczema and I have to take him off the community just to go bathe him in clean water,” she said.

A copy of the Human Rights Watch report, obtained by Metro, says Canada is struggling to fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The 17-page report details how the Shoal Lake water treatment system was never equipped to filter out Cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes diarrhea and is active in the community’s water.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Amanda Klasing said the boil-water advisory on Shoal Lake is an example of how aboriginal people living on reserve lack the same protections other Canadians enjoy.

“Let it be known that they are struggling in Canada to vindicate their basic human rights including access to clean water and sanitation,” Klasing wrote in an email.

Klasing said Human Rights Watch will release a full report on its findings later this year.

Manitoba’s aboriginal dropout rate is alarming

The number of aboriginal students that are dropping out of Manitoba high schools is alarming, yet no one seems to be outraged by the latest figures, which were released by Manitoba’s auditor general on Friday.

The new numbers show that since 2010 only 55 per cent of aboriginal students graduated high school while a whopping 96 per cent of non-aboriginal students graduated during the same period.

But Norm Ricard’s 50-page report might just be scratching the surface.

In fact, one aboriginal educator tells me dropout numbers are probably much higher because many students she knows choose not to disclose their aboriginal identity on paper during school registration.

Watch for my full story in the Selkirk Record on Thursday and see what the local high school there is doing there to combat dropout rates and restore traditional teachings.

An infographic I made that shows the latest numbers is below.