Manitoba indigenous flood victims settle government lawsuit
Published Saturday, June 17, 2017 10:00PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 17, 2017 10:34PM EDT
Residents of four Manitoba First Nations who were displaced by flooding six years ago are expected to share most of a $90-million settlement from a class-action lawsuit they filed against the provincial and federal governments.
In 2011, Manitoba had record spring flooding and the province struggled well into the summer to contain the Assiniboine River. An estimated 4,000 residents were forced out of their homes in Lake St. Martin, Dauphin River, Little Saskatchewan and Pinaymootang First Nations.
Some residents still haven’t been able to return home six years on.
“It’s been a long wait, because six year is a long wait,” said evacuee Bertha Travers, who thought she would only be gone for two weeks.
“I felt that [...] they didn’t care. They didn’t care what happened to us,” she told CTV Winnipeg.
The lawsuit, which was launched in 2012, claimed the Manitoba government “knowingly and recklessly” caused the flooding. The lawsuit also alleged the province didn't given enough warning about the flooding.
Officials had allowed the Portage Diversion, a channel that funnels water from the Assiniboine River into Lake Winnipeg, to be operated over its capacity.
However, provincial flood forecasters argued they did nothing that artificially raised water levels.
Just over 1,000 residents from Lake St. Martin First Nation are still waiting for the reserve to be relocated and rebuilt.
"This settlement is designed to compensate the individuals for the disruption that they went through because of the flooding and give them a fresh start," lawyer Sabrina Lombardi of the Ontario law firm McKenzie Lake told the Canadian Press Friday.
According to Lombardi, members of the class-action would share between 80 to 90 per cent of the settlement, with the remaining 10 per cent going to cover legal fees and administration costs.
How the money will be distributed is yet to be decided, but First Nations could see payments as early as spring 2018. However, the deal still needs to go through the courts and be approved by a judge.
“No levels of compensation or money will ever repay back what we’ve been going through,” Little Saskatchewan evacuee Riel Woodford told CTV Winnipeg.
With files from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon and The Canadian Press