Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2012 (3350 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canada's Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development minister said Thursday he cannot say when a permanent home will be found for flooded-out members of Lake St. Martin First Nation.
John Duncan said he'd like to see it happen "as soon as possible," but the ball is now in the First Nation's court.
In Winnipeg to meet with First Nations leaders and attend the opening of a new aboriginal children's centre, Duncan said Ottawa is waiting for Lake St. Martin's chief and council to settle on the location of a new permanent home.
Complicating matters is the fact the band is holding elections June 28.
"We can independently set a goal (on the timing of the band's relocation) but we can't move faster than chief and council. We can't move faster than the practical realities," he said.
Lake St. Martin has been evacuated since last spring's major flood. As of this week, some 1,298 members have been receiving flood-compensation benefits at an estimated cost of $13,000 a day. That number will be reduced to 1,128 today as Ottawa cuts off payments to 170 people it has determined do not qualify for benefits.
Duncan noted some families have relocated temporarily to Gypsumville. He said 20 homes are occupied there and another 10 are available. The First Nation is said to be considering at least two sites for a new permanent home -- one on land adjacent to the current reserve that was purchased by the province last year. The other site is some 50 kilometres to the south.
The provincial government says it is working with Lake St. Martin to determine whether at least part of its current flood-damaged lands could be viable in the long term. It's undertaking an engineering study to assess the impact of long-term flood-mitigation efforts on the community. The results are expected late this fall.
In the meantime, the province is holding several hundred hectares of land on higher ground near the existing community that is not flood prone. "We purchased the land in consultation with (Lake St. Martin) and should the community wish to use that land, we will transfer ownership," a provincial spokesman said in an email Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ottawa and Lake St. Martin First Nation continue to bicker over whether the band is responsible for verifying who should qualify for compensation as a result of last spring's flood. The federal government holds the First Nation responsible, while Lake St. Martin argues it's the Manitoba Native Fire Fighters Association, which has been contracted by Ottawa to provide disaster assistance.
-- with files from Alexandra Paul and Mia Rabson
More than 4,000 First Nations residents were forced to evacuate their homes in the spring of 2011. At last count, about 2,200 people remain evacuees, about half of them from Lake St. Martin.
May 8, 2011: Evacuations start, with the first 175 people to leave the Interlake community about 225 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
May 18, 2011: Evacuees reach 587. Most are moved to hotels in Winnipeg, with seven to hotels in Ashern and Moosehorn. Provincial plans called for evacuees to start moving to new housing on a former radar base in Gypsumville by fall.
Sept. 15, 2011: Canada's military vetoes Lake St. Martin request to spend the winter at the former Kapyong barracks.
Oct. 3, 2011: Manitoba's grand chief decries as racist Air Canada's decision to move flight crews out of downtown hotels over rising crime rates some observers linked to evacuees.
Dec. 2, 2011: Plan falls apart to relocate evacuees after the province passes on a bid for 150 houses from a company that listed the chief as a director.
March 16, 2012: A spike in the number of Lake St. Martin residents forced by flooding from their homes and receiving payouts sparks a federal probe. A total of 1,268 people were registered as evacuees. Tally for evacuees hit $40 million. Another $83 million for flood mitigation and $5.2 million more to First Nations for flood recovery.
April 10: The first 12 families move into Manitoba Housing at the former radar base near Gypsumville.
April 28: Federal officials identify 170 people as ineligible for evacuee benefits, which amount to about $100 a day in hotel accommodation and meals.
June 1: Evacuees declared ineligible for payouts are cut off benefits.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.