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Native firefighters evicted from hotel

Locks changed at Misty Lake, drug use alleged

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Misty Lake Lodge in Gimli has cleared out rooms occupied by flood co-ordinators hired by MANFF.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Misty Lake Lodge in Gimli has cleared out rooms occupied by flood co-ordinators hired by MANFF. Photo Store

A Gimli hotel has evicted the staff of an agency that was responsible for flood evacuees living at the hotel, accusing the staff of trashing their rooms and using illegal drugs.

Misty Lake Lodge announced Thursday they have changed the locks on eight rooms and cleared out personal property belonging to flood co-ordinators hired by the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters.

The decision to toss the co-ordinators came after several emails over a period of months to Aboriginal Affairs and MANFF executives that accused MANFF staff at the hotel of abusive language, drunken behaviour and drug use. The emails came from lodge owner Mike Bruneau and lodge general manager Retha Dykes.

Their accusations have not been proven. MANFF officials did not answer a request for comment on Thursday.

The final straw was a loud party in one of the MANFF rooms Wednesday night, Bruneau said.

"Last night, Retha had a roomful of people that she threw out and she phoned me and I said 'That's it,' " said Bruneau.

Thursday morning, Bruneau had locks changed on eight rooms used by MANFF co-ordinators. "We did them all," he said.

The rooms were found trashed and can't be used for paying guests, Bruneau alleged. Staff belongings were boxed and put into storage, he said.

Misty Lake informed MANFF executive director Daren Mini by email on Thursday of the decision and told him to arrange to pick up his staff's belongings.

"Hotel staff and evacuees have been verbally abused and threatened by these so-called co-ordinators. They have damaged rooms, smoked, been rude, disruptive, refused to follow hotel rules and many of them have been engaging in illegal drug use inside the hotel and on the property. Loud parties, noisy guests and the constant smell of marijuana in the halls has forced us to move evacuees and their children to other areas where they can feel safe," Dykes informed Mini in the email obtained by the Free Press.

"Last week, hotel security responded to a complaint in a room that we were unaware was occupied. The occupants, who were caught causing a disturbance, had dogs in the room... they were smoking and visibly inebriated. They told security they were friends of the co-ordinator and were allowed to stay," the lodge informed Mini.

Drug paraphernalia was discovered in another room and the co-ordinator who claimed it said he only used it off the property, Bruneau said. That man was evicted from the lodge.

The decision to evict the MANFF staff does not affect their use of a room they use during work hours as an office.

As of Wednesday, Misty Lake hosted a few dozen flood evacuees. At one time, as many as 180 lived at the hotel.

On Monday, Bruneau announced he will close the business Sept. 1 because he's been unable to collect $3 million in outstanding debts from the federal government through MANFF.

On Wednesday, a federal cabinet minister vowed to intervene to ensure Misty Lake Lodge receives the millions it's owed for housing flood evacuees,

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt assured his provincial counterpart, Eric Robinson, he would intervene to ensure the lodge owner is paid the money owed to him, Robinson said Wednesday.

Late Thursday, Misty Lake informed the federal government they intend to order an independent audit of their millions in invoices, on the advice of their attorney.

The impending closure raises concerns flood evacuees from Lake St. Martin and Little Saskatchewan First Nations will again be uprooted.

All were forced to flee their homes in the spring of 2011 due to flooding. A permanent resettlement plan is still in the works.

 

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

 

-- with files from Larry Kusch

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2013 A9

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