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NEWS: Manitoba First Nations flooded from their homes, now facing crackdowns and cutbacks

More than 2,000 members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation and several other First Nations in Manitoba were forced to leave their communities 16 months ago due to flooding.

This past April, the Canadian Press reported, “Residents of four Manitoba First Nations are suing the province, alleging the government deliberately flooded their communities last year and didn’t take proper care of them after they were forced to evacuate. …The statement of claim says the province ‘knowingly and recklessly’ caused the disaster in their communities by diverting too much floodwater into Lake Manitoba last spring.”

That article notes, “The Peguis and the Ebb and Flow First Nations (also) filed lawsuits last year, suing the federal government, the province and its Crown utility over ‘unusually massive’ flooding which they say robbed them of their way of life, their livelihood and their homes. That lawsuit also alleges flood water was intentionally diverted into Lake Manitoba last spring, which pushed lake levels up and unnecessarily flooded their reserves and traditional land.”

The story worsens.

In mid-July, CBC reported, “About 200 more Lake St. Martin First Nation members who claim to be flood evacuees will soon be cut off (effective Aug. 1), as the federal government cracks down on ineligible benefit claims. …That number is in addition to the 170 Lake St. Martin band members whose evacuee claims were deemed to be ineligible earlier this year. They were cut off on June 1.”

And earlier this week the CBC reported, “The province is drastically scaling back the allowances next week by about 80 per cent. …Adult evacuees were eligible for a $23 per day payment for incidental costs and rent. Dependent children were eligible for payments of $18 per day. Starting Oct. 1, the government will still pay rent or hotel bills for evacuees, but coverage for incidental expenses will drop to $4 for adults and $3.20 per day for children.”

First Nations are voicing their opposition to these moves. CBC notes, “Dozens of flood evacuees from Manitoba’s Lake St. Martin have been lining the shoulders of Highway 6 this week, protesting the government’s decision to scale back daily living allowances. …Flood evacuees from the Lake St. Martin and Little Saskatchewan First Nations (also) took part in a protest outside the Manitoba legislature on Wednesday afternoon.”

For more on this situation, please read http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/09/26/mb-flood-evacuees-protest-manitoba.html, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/07/19/mb-lake-st-martin-ineligible-flood-evacuees.html, and http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/manitoba-first-nations-residents-sue-provincial-government-over-2011-flooding-146321725.html. For a blog by Manitoba MLA Jon Gerrard, please see http://manitobaliberals.blogspot.ca/2012/06/artificial-flood-on-lake-manitoba-and.html.

Thank you to Council of Canadians Board member Chief Garry John of the Seton Lake First Nation in Coast Salish Territories for bringing this to our attention.