Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A way back to school

  • Print

The people of Lake St. Martin First Nation have become refugees in their own country, but their leaders must share much of the blame for the appalling situation that has continued to strand some 700 people in Winnipeg hotels and rental accommodations.

The flood that forced them off their reserve on the east side of Lake Manitoba last year was not their fault, but the band's leadership has refused reasonable offers of accommodation by the provincial and federal governments, which could have reunited them as a community.

The real victims in this sorry mess, however, are neither government nor the band's executives, but the children who are pawns in a wider power struggle.

The band's young people missed some schooling last year when floodwaters swamped their reserve. The new school year had just begun in rented accommodations in Winnipeg when fire officials closed the building because it didn't meet the fire code.

The band should have ensured the former junior high school met the requirements for occupancy. The oversight means about 84 students may be distributed among public schools in Winnipeg, although the province has offered to create a school within a school to keep them together.

Chief Adrian Sinclair is blaming government, but the line of attack is wearing thin. The province and Ottawa were also attacked for dramatically cutting the per diem paid to evacuees. The band neglected to say that every family is still receiving full income assistance from Ottawa. Band members who worked for the First Nation are receiving salaries. Their rent is fully covered. The per diems were intended to temporarily cover incidental costs.

The province has converted a former military base near Gypsumville, near the band's reserve lands, into a temporary community. Some 60 new homes were moved there, with plans for more if the need arose, but only 13 are occupied.

The rest have followed their leaders' dictum to stay put while negotiations continue for a permanent settlement, and possibly a new reserve. The band fears if it moves to Gypsumville, talks will stall and they will be stuck in a place they claim they do not want.

This and other rationalizations for remaining in Winnipeg are red herrings, but they reflect the tradition of mistrust that often characterizes aboriginal relations with the federal government.

A just-completed engineering study is expected to reveal whether the existing reserve can be saved. If so, more time will be needed to consider the possibilities.

In the meantime, the band should do the right thing and reunite the community in temporary homes at Gypsumville, where nearby schools and services can help meet their needs.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2012 A6

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


  • 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 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 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.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Cheapskate: Travel getaway tips

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Should the federal government force band chiefs and councillors to disclose their salary information?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google