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Report raps flood aid

Red Cross condemns lack of plan for evacuees

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Lake St. Martin was among First Nations communities flooded in 2011.

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Lake St. Martin was among First Nations communities flooded in 2011. Photo Store

Two years after the 2011 flood, services to nearly 2,000 First Nations evacuees are fragmented, and there is still no long-term plan for their future, says the Canadian Red Cross in a report released Thursday.

The organization called on federal Aboriginal and Northern Affairs authorities to take an active hand in co-ordinating resettlement efforts.

That's the conclusion of the humanitarian agency in its long-awaited report on what Manitoba's aboriginal flood evacuees need now.

Ottawa commissioned the report in June and the 19-page report was posted Thursday on the federal Aboriginal Affairs website.

The Red Cross used various research techniques, including questionnaires, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to come up with its assessment.

The agency established a team and gathered feedback from 200 evacuees on topics such as shelter, health community, livelihood and a category they called safety and protection.

What they discovered wasn't pretty.

Of evacuees from six First Nations still affected by the flood -- Pinaymootang, Peguis, Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Ebb and Flow and Dauphin River -- initial disaster assistance was effective but "once the emergency (passed), the recovery process became fragmented. Even today, after two years, many gaps remain. The situation of the people and their long-term recovery needs to continue to be a humanitarian challenge." The report follows an announcement by federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt last week that the Red Cross will take over evacuee services as of Feb. 1.

Between now and then, the federal government, province and Red Cross are expected to work with the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters (MANFF), the agency in charge of evacuees since 2011, to ensure a smooth transition.

In its report, the Red Cross made it clear providing benefits and services isn't the ultimate solution. Recovering the evacuees' lost communities and building them new homes is the only acceptable plan for the future.

"As yet, there is no comprehensive recovery plan for the six First Nations communities affected by Manitoba flooding," the Red Cross report concluded.

"The people hardest hit by the disaster have been deeply traumatized by the loss of their homes and their communities. It is vital that the AANDC should take the lead in bringing together the strengths of the various service-providing agencies with the aim of creating a recovery network."

MANFF has come in for harsh criticism for its handling of the disaster, along with the regional office of Aboriginal Affairs.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2013 A12

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