Governments reach settlement for flooded First Nations
Published Friday, June 16, 2017 6:02PM CST
Christmas together with all of her family is a thing of the past for Muriel Woodford.
The Little Saskatchewan First Nation resident is one of thousands of people still dispersed and displaced from the 2011 flood.
"I thought it would be three weeks or something, I never knew it would go on for six years," said Woodford.
She said elders have died from the stress and there have been suicides. Woodford worries about the impact this is having on her community's youth, growing up away from home.
"A lot of emotional things we've been going through, because I myself have young sons, and there's a lot of alcohol that's really available and drugs," said Woodford.
For the thousands of evacuees, there is finally some hope of starting over.
The governments of Ottawa and Manitoba have resolved a class action lawsuit with members of four flooded out First Nations communities: Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River and Pinaymootang. The settlement is worth $90 million. A positive step, said one of the lead plaintiffs, evacuee Bertha Travers.
"I suppose I can say that it has been a long wait because six years is a long wait," said Travers.
Evacuees have always maintained this was a man-made flood. Their lawyers alleged when the Assiniboine River was diverted north, lake levels rose, recklessly causing the disaster.
"Had that not been done, the flooding wouldn't have been as severe," said lawyer Dennis Troniak from McKenzie Lake Lawyers, based in Ontario.
All band members from the four communities can make claims for a share of the settlement. Muriel Woodford said the money isn't important. She just wants to go home and bring her family back together.
"No levels of compensation or money will ever repay back what we've been going through," said Woodford.
It's believed there could be up to 4,000 claimants. Payments are expected to roll out next year but the settlement must first be certified by the court in November.