First Nations in Manitoba are keeping a nervous eye on a massive slick that's slowly spreading eastward on the North Saskatchewan River, after a pipeline owned by Husky Energy leaked more than 200,000 litres of oil on July 21.

That spill, which originated near Maidstone, Sask. has already passed through several First Nation communities, including the Muskoday First Nation, which declared a state of emergency after being shut off from its normal water supply for four days.

"The waters of the North Saskatchewan River eventually flow into the Saskatchewan River, which flows into Manitoba near the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and into Lake Winnipeg at Grand Rapids near the Chemawawin and Misipawistik Cree Nations," stated Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson in a press release.

The organization, which represents 30 First Nations in northern Manitoba, is joining their Saskatchewan counterparts in demanding to be part of monitoring teams that are tracking the spill's flow.

MKO is also calling on the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to establish "permanent interprovincial First Nation-government co-ordination units to monitor water quality, contaminants and spills to ensure safety for our People, waters and territory."


On Friday, the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs also criticized the way in which the spill has been handled by both the province of Saskatchewan and Husky Energy, accusing the company of keeping silent about the dangers to communities downstream.

The group, which represents the province's 63 First Nations communities, called for an immediate boycott - including divestment - of Husky Energy.

"To poison this source of life for a great number of people, animals and plant life is a tragedy and we must hold the company to account for this," Grand Chief Derek Nepinak wrote in a press release.

No immediate threat

Earlier this week, officials from the Province of Manitoba said that because of the slow rate of oil slick's spread, there was no immediate threat to this province

But while booms have been deployed at various places along the river, high water and debris have hampered the clean-up effort. And MKO's North Wilson said the longer the oil is in the water, the more likely it will break up and the harder it will be to capture.

"This means that booms will be increasingly less effective as the oil moves downstream from the spill," she said.

The MKO release also said that on August 3, a group of women from the Opaskewyak Cree Nation will be holding a ceremony to pray for the Saskatchewan River.