Feds ending aid to First Nation members separated from their reserve since 2011 by flooding
Eight years after being forced from their community by catastrophic flooding, members of a Manitoba First Nation are being asked to go home -- despite warning there aren’t enough homes to return to.
CTV News has learned that Indigenous Services Canada issued letters to nearly 1,000 evacuees from Lake St. Martin First Nation, about 270 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, indicating their emergency funding will end on Dec. 31.
“A lot of people got those letters -- for us to go home -- and we have no house to go home to,” Rose Forbes, a Lake St. Martin elder and one of the evacuees, told CTV News.
Lake St. Martin First Nation was completely destroyed by flooding in May 2011, when the province diverted flood water away from major towns and cities like Winnipeg. Nearly 1,400 residents of the First Nation had to be transported to safety.
For nearly a decade, they’ve waited for their community to be fully rebuilt, as the federal government constructs a new reserve a few kilometres away from the site of the old one.
As part of the $200-million restoration project, the government has promised to build 310 homes in the community by the end of 2019, but delays stemming from an October snowstorm have put that goal in doubt.
Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair believes a more realistic completion date is the end of March 2020. He plans to head to Ottawa next week to demand for an extension on the relief funding.
“They're not getting the full report, how it's being dealt and what kind of hold-ups and hiccups they have in this region,” he said.
In 2017, the members of four Manitoba First Nations communities -- including Lake St. Martin -- received a $90-million settlement from the provincial and federal governments following a class-action lawsuit that alleged the governments “knowingly and recklessly” caused the flooding in 2011 by pushing excessive amounts of floodwater into Lake Manitoba.
The lawsuit also alleged the governments didn’t do enough to warn residents about the situation.