Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rising flood evacuee claims red-flagged last fall

  • Print

FEDERAL and provincial officials were concerned about inflated numbers of flood evacuees from Lake St. Martin as far back as early November.

Alarms were raised at a Nov. 3 teleconference of government officials and representatives of the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters (MANFF), which delivers assistance to First Nations evacuees.

"We came to the conclusion we may be faced with a situation where we were getting some ineligible evacuees joining the rolls," said Lee Spencer, director of recovery with Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization.

The meeting's agenda, obtained through a freedom-of-information request, stated MANFF was to report on First Nations evacuee numbers. Spencer chaired the meeting.

In August, the number of reported Lake St. Martin evacuees stood at 725 but the numbers continued to rise through the fall. By February, it had hit 1,157 and in March it rose to 1,268. In early November, the rising numbers sparked consternation on the part of government officials.

"That's when we came to the conclusion that action was perhaps necessary to make sure that everybody understood it just wasn't an open book. You had to deserve to be on the evacuation list," Spencer said after the province released a handful of documents Wednesday to the Free Press.

Included among the documents was a draft letter -- already referenced in previous stories -- to First Nations warning them they were responsible for creating and maintaining evacuee lists. (Aboriginal leaders have insisted the responsibility belongs to MANFF.)

First Nations are responsible for ensuring those on the lists "can be substantiated" as evacuees," according to the letter, written by Brock Holowachuk, an emergency management co-ordinator with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). He warned if the information could not be provided, First Nations might be on the hook for the extra costs.

Holowachuk emailed the draft copy to Spencer for his comments on Nov. 29 before sending it to aboriginal leaders in early December. In an emailed response, Spencer thanked the federal official for the heads-up, but said EMO had "no comment or observations."

While EMO has no part in registering evacuees, it provides funds to MANFF so it can provide services to flood victims. The feds repay EMO for 100 per cent of those costs.

As a close observer of the First Nations evacuee claims, Spencer said Wednesday the protracted nature of last year's flood -- with many people unable to return home even now -- caused severe stress to the agencies providing and overseeing aid.

"It maybe took a little while to catch on (that there were ineligible recipients) but I think they caught on and they're doing the right thing now."

Last week, Ottawa acknowledged more than 10 per cent of people receiving emergency assistance due to flooding at Lake St. Martin First Nation were not evacuees from the reserve.

The Free Press received only four documents consisting of five pages from the province on Wednesday after altering its original freedom-of-information request. Originally, the provincial government set a price tag of nearly $1.9 million to provide all of the information requested.

Spencer said there is much more correspondence between EMO, MANFF and AANDC than the public might realize.

The EMO official said he has 3,200 emails alone from the past year on the evacuee issue. "I've got almost 200 binders of 500 pages each of information from MANFF," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2012 A5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What should the city do with the 102-year-old Arlington Street bridge?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google