November 22, 2019

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Officials plan for evacuee vote

BEN KAHLER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Some 6,000 evacuees from 13 Manitoba First Nations have been told their communities could have hydro restored by Sunday, but in case it isn't, Elections Canada is making sure they can still vote.

Today, Elections Canada said evacuees remaining in Winnipeg on election day Monday will be able to vote at University of Winnipeg’s Wesley Hall. For voters who remained in their homes affected by power outages, Elections Canada said it is working to safely offer voting services on election day with reduced hours of operation due to power outages. "Outreach staff will help identify where people have been displaced to, and communicate extensively with affected indigenous communities to share available voting options."

Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief Cornell McLean of the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council said the communities were advised power could be restored by Oct. 20, which would allow evacuees to return home. However, with the size and scope of the outage due to the recent snow storm, the federal agency responsible for running elections isn't taking a chance.

"Elections Canada is closely monitoring the situation and is in touch with provincial and local authorities," Elections Canada said in an email. "We are also in constant contact with our returning officers and field liaison officers in the affected areas. We make every effort to ensure electors can cast their ballot safely."

The federal organization said electors voting at a relocated poll must be a resident of the evacuated community, whether on the list of electors or not. Eligible voters from the relocated communities will be able to register at their relocated polling station if they have the appropriate identification documents, Elections Canada said.

Some of the evacuated communities have been without power for five days or more after the storm caused an unprecedented amount of damage to transmission lines and towers. Repairs were expected to take more than a week. The hydro outages and limited road access prompted Premier Brian Pallister and affected First Nations to declare a state of emergency.

As of Wednesday, the Red Cross said it has registered close to 6,000 evacuees from 13 affected First Nations. Displaced residents have found shelter in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Dauphin and Brandon.

Some have found their own place to stay, said Jason Small with the Red Cross in Winnipeg. The relief agency is working with First Nations and affiliated organizations to help evacuees.

"We have people staying with friends and family," said Small.

Some are staying in hotels, and fewer than 80 people Tuesday night stayed at the shelter set up at Winnipeg's convention centre that could accommodate 1,000, he said.

"As hotel rooms become available, we are trying to get people in them, starting with the most vulnerable," said Small.

Those with nowhere to stay had a place to rest their head at the convention centre, where evacuees can register with the Red Cross, get medical support and crisis counselling, and pick up supplies such as baby diapers and formula, have a meal and enjoy some recreation, said Small.

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre representatives were there Tuesday night doing crafts with the children, he said. "I'm incredibly proud of our team of volunteers."

Over the past few days, some 85 volunteers with the Red Cross and other organizations (such as the volunteer community patrol group Bear Clan) have pitched in to help fellow Manitobans. The Eagle Urban Transition Centre is organizing a field trip to a swimming pool; Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre has provided 50 movie passes; and Bear Clan is supplying snacks, food, and clothing.

"They've done an amazing job," said Small.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 at 5:53 PM CDT: Fixes typo in fact box

October 17, 2019 at 2:22 PM: Updated first two paragraphs with Elections Canada info

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