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Protestors shut down work on Lake St. Martin diversion

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A worker prepares to leave as fisherman and their families from Lake St. Martin and Fairford First Nations reserves stopped workers from reopening the Lake St. Martin emergency channel on Saturday. A part of the outlet was opened before the work stoppage.

MICHELLE SIU Enlarge Image

A worker prepares to leave as fisherman and their families from Lake St. Martin and Fairford First Nations reserves stopped workers from reopening the Lake St. Martin emergency channel on Saturday. A part of the outlet was opened before the work stoppage.

Protestors 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 this week.

Derrick Gould, a councilor at the 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 protestors first heard about plans to open the diversion on July 2, and were upset they hadn’t been consulted, Gould said. They were told a fax had been sent to all four First Nation bands in the area, to inform them of the work.

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

Most of the protestors 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 regards to compensation packages," Gould said, adding they would also need a cleanup of large trees and branches that were torn loose from the flooding.

The protestors, members of the First Nation communities and non-status fishermen will be meeting on Monday in Dauphin river with members of the province to discuss their concerns, Gould said. He said he’s sorry the protest is impeding 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.

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