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First Nations protesters demand more flood protection

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A worker prepares to leave as fishermen and their families from Lake St. Martin and Fairford First Nations reserves stopped workers from reopening the Lake St. Martin emergency channel on July 5. A part of the outlet was opened before the stoppage, which would help alleviate flooding however fisherman claim that it would further cripple their livelihood.

MICHELLE SIU PHOTO Enlarge Image

A worker prepares to leave as fishermen and their families from Lake St. Martin and Fairford First Nations reserves stopped workers from reopening the Lake St. Martin emergency channel on July 5. A part of the outlet was opened before the stoppage, which would help alleviate flooding however fisherman claim that it would further cripple their livelihood.

First Nations protesters are vowing to defy the province and continue to restrict flows from a Lake St. Martin emergency outlet channel until the government takes their treaty rights seriously.

At a news conference Friday in Winnipeg, aboriginal leaders said their people are tired of bearing the brunt of major floods while others are protected.

"It shouldn’t be 100 per cent losses in our communities and 100 per cent preservation of everybody else," said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs.

First Nations protesters have prevented crews from fully reopening the emergency channel, which was built in 2011. It is designed to lower water levels on Lake St. Martin.

The protesters say the channel is now operating at 30 per cent capacity, while the province maintains the structure is operating at 80 per cent of capacity.

A provincial spokeswoman said Friday the government has not demanded police intervention.

"The RCMP are not intervening. They have been apprised of the protest and are monitoring it, including ensuring the safety of the protesters," said Rachel Morgan.

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