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Fallout Persists from Spring Floods in Manitoba

Two Lawsuits and a Housing Request Stem from Spring Flooding Fallout in Manitoba
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Months after spring floods have receded, some Manitoba First Nations are still displaced, leading two of them to file suit and one to request barracks housing through the winter.

The Peguis and Ebb and Flow First Nations filed lawsuits in mid-September, claiming that dislocation and other effects from last spring’s record flooding have still not been addressed. In suits filed in federal court in Winnipeg, both First Nations allege that floodwaters were diverted into Lake Manitoba to keep cities like Port La Prairie dry, but at the expense of their agricultural land, residential areas and sacred sites. The two First Nations are suing Manitoba Hydro, the federal government, the province and the Crown utility.

“These First Nations…are sick and tired of the government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro … flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of land without any concern whatsoever to the needs and interests of Manitoba First Nations,” Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer from Alberta who represents the First Nations, told the Canadian Press.

Hundreds of people, many of them First Nations citizens, were forced from their homes by the April flooding. Although vacation-home owners and farmers can apply for compensation from the province, First Nations do not qualify because they are the responsibility of the federal government, Rath told the Canadian Press.

But as far back as February, Peguis officials had begun to sound warnings that they were bracing for devastating flooding, based on their previous experience with heavy rains. Earlier this year, Chief Glenn Hudson said in a statement that damage from previous floods had still not been repaired. Now, Rath said, many of the reserve homes have mold problems.

“These communities have just been devastated,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lake St. Martin First Nation has asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper if its members, trapped in Winnipeg hotels since flooding forced them off their reserve in May, can winter in the vacant homes of Kapyong Base.

“Our people aren’t asking you to give them the homes,” Chief Adrian Sinclair wrote to Harper in September. “Just let us live there at Kapyong together as a community until our new community can be rebuilt on a reserve on higher ground—maybe a year.”