Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Protest stops Lake St. Martin work

Lack of compensation, notification are concerns

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Sienna Gould (left), from Fairford First Nation, and Rio, from Lake St. Martin, watch as the workers leave on a helicopter Saturday.

MICHELLE SIU PHOTO Enlarge Image

Sienna Gould (left), from Fairford First Nation, and Rio, from Lake St. Martin, watch as the workers leave on a helicopter Saturday.

PROTESTERS upset about lack of compensation and oversight have shut down work on the Lake St. Martin diversion, which was scheduled to be diverting water from the province's swollen rivers and flood this week.

Derrick Gould, a councillor at Fairford First Nation said about 20 people, including him, have been occupying the site since Saturday to make their concerns about the diversion heard.

The protesters first heard about plans to open the diversion on July 2 and were upset they hadn't been consulted, Gould said. They were informed a fax had been sent to all four First Nations in the area to advise them of the work.

'We're hoping to get some commitment from the government'

"That's not very reasonable and respectful. To me, it's an inappropriate manner that they would deal (with us) in that way," Gould said.

The diversion creates a lot of problems for those fishing in the area, he said, and many in the communities depend on fishing for a living.

"We're trying in every way to protect our area for any kind of economic stability we can have. We don't have much around here, but we're rich in natural resources," Gould said.

Gould said the protesters arrived at the site on Saturday and encountered workers. They asked the workers to leave, which they did, Gould said.

Most of the protesters are hoping for compensation for the damage the diversion causes, and some are still waiting on compensation promised to them from the 2011 flood, Gould said.

"We're hoping to get some commitment from the government in regard to compensation packages," Gould said, adding they would also need cleanup of large trees and branches that were torn loose from the flooding.

The protesters, members of the First Nations and non-status fishermen will be meeting today in Dauphin River with provincial officials to discuss their concerns, Gould said. He said he's sorry the protest is impeding with work on the river.

"There's nowhere to turn... We're sorry that it's inconveniencing them, but we need to make our concerns heard," he said.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2014 A7

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