Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

First Nations protest ahead of UN visit

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The plight of flood evacuees was taken to the steps of the legislative building on Thursday by about 150 First Nations people and some of the province's top aboriginal leaders.

The protest was timed to coincide with a visit from a United Nations representative today and Saturday to First Nations communities in Manitoba.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak later said he hopes international attention will speed up the pace of talks on helping evacuees.

"I certainly don't have to say anything to the UN rapporteur to cause embarrassment to either the province or the federal government. The fact that over 2,200 people continue to be displaced from last year's flood speaks louder than any words that I could string together," Nepinak said.

Flood waters washed out land on four Interlake First Nations located between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg.

The hardest hit was Lake St. Martin. Peguis First Nation has been hit by five floods in the last three years.

First Nations argue their lands were deliberately sacrificed when the province used the Portage Diversion to reroute water from the swollen Assiniboine River. Diverting the water saved Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie, but Interlake residents who lost their homes say they are frustrated by the slow pace of compensation.

United Nations special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter will arrive in Winnipeg today to take part in a forum at Sagkeeng First Nation, an Ojibway community 145 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He will also go on an aerial tour of flood-affected First Nations communities. On Saturday, he'll tour northern First Nations.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2012 A10

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