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NEWS: Lake St. Martin denied choice of new home after province floods its reserve

The Globe and Mail reports, “Lake St. Martin is now more a ghost town than what was once home to more than 1,400 people. The community was forced to leave abruptly in May of 2011 when Manitoba decided to spare Winnipeg from the effects of the ‘super-flood’ – the largest spring runoff in provincial history – by diverting water into several northern native centres. Residents were rushed to Winnipeg, thinking they’d be back in weeks, if not days. But the flooding was so severe that the site, a reserve for 140 years and home to native people for longer than anyone can remember, is uninhabitable… People now face the prospect of spending yet another holiday season stranded in the big city.”

“Canada’s aboriginal people have a constitutional right to be consulted on decisions that affect them, yet Manitoba has spent $1.5-million to buy 3,200 acres for a new reserve site that community leaders reject. And it has invested $14-million to set up temporary housing at a third location that elders claim is infested with snakes. …Chief Adrian Sinclair and his council say they have found a spot (Site 9) for a new home that is much better than what the province is proposing. …(The federal government is) responsible for establishing reserves and ensuring the welfare of those who occupy them. But thus far Ottawa has shown little interest in discussing where Lake St. Martin’s displaced residents will wind up.”

The article adds, “With an elevation more than 30 metres above that of the existing reserve, Site 9 is close to Highway 6, the main north-south route from Winnipeg to Thompson – ideal for roadside commerce to provide revenue to the band and employment to its people (especially given complaints that, in the process of lowering Lake St. Martin by nearly a metre, the much-ballyhooed $100 million emergency channel built after the super-flood has drained away much of its precious fish population). …But the province says that, even though the land is high, too much drainage work is needed to make the site viable – and it contends that the federal government, which has the final say on what becomes a reserve, has rejected it.”

The feature article can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/flooded-out-to-save-winnipeg-lake-st-martin-residents-now-feel-forgotten/article5621936/?page=all.

A September 2012 Council of Canadians campaign blog on this situation can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16878. Thank you to Council of Canadians Board member Chief Garry John of the Seton Lake First Nation for first bringing this matter to our attention.