More than 2,200 people from seven First Nations in Manitoba are still displaced a year after flooding forced them from their reserve homes, stuck in an urban environment far from their communities.
This is being eclipsed by a fracas over fraudulent flood claims, with nearly 200 being found ineligible in Lake St. Martin First Nation alone. Several other reserves are undergoing federal audits, CBC News reported on May 1.
Now all the flood evacuees—2,400 in total—are being forced to re-register with the federal government for compensation under strict new rules designed to prevent fraud, CBC News reports. All this amid a price tag that has topped $40 million, the Winnipeg Free Press reported in March.
Dauphin River First Nation residents were evacuated on March 30, 2011, and later people had to leave the First Nations of Peguis, Canupawakpa, Ebb & Flow, Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Pinaymootang, according to the Free Press.
Almost all of Lake St. Martin’s homes were destroyed by the spring floods, and the community must be rebuilt elsewhere, the Free Press said. Adding to the difficulties, though, were the actions of some who did not live on the reserve but found a way to collect benefits anyway. On May 3 the Free Press reported that red flags were raised on such issues as far back as November 2011 but that Manitoba’s aboriginal affairs ministry and First Nations chiefs were each saying that the other was responsible for identifying eligible benefits recipients. An independent audit indicated that First Nations chiefs may have diverted some of the funds, the Free Press story said.
It’s not just First Nation communities in Manitoba that are threatened by flooding. Hundreds of people from Four First Nations communities in the Atlantic region and Ontario have been forced from their homes this year by flooding, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo pointed out in a media release in March 2012.
“Once again flood season has arrived, causing displacement and hardship. The worst part is that this happens every year,” Atleo said. “This annual problem calls on all levels of government to work with First Nations to develop and implement emergency response plans that work for our communities. This means action now for all of the communities impacted. It also means proper investments in infrastructure and long-term, sustainable plans.”