Lake St. Martin flood evacuees still waiting to return home 7 years later
Published Friday, June 22, 2018 7:09PM CST
Last Updated Friday, June 22, 2018 7:20PM CST
It's been more than seven years since people from several Manitoba First Nations were forced from their homes by catastrophic flooding.
The latest numbers from the federal government show more than 1700 evacuees are still waiting to go home.
The lengthy evacuation has been filled with hardship and uncertainty.
Flood evacuee Veltina Marsden has adjusted to life in a rental home in Winnipeg with her husband and two sons.
They've lived in it for the past five years, but it's not where she wants to stay.
"My hope right now is to return home,” said Marsden.
Home is Lake St. Martin First Nation, about three hours northwest of Winnipeg.
It was devastated during the 2011 flood, displacing around 1400 people.
The community is now being rebuilt in a new location, not far away.
So far 300 people have moved to the new community, leaving more than 1000 still displaced.
This summer, 175 more people are expected to go back.
"Seven long years. A lot of people have passed on,” said Lake St. Martin First Nation Chief Adrian Sinclair. “I want to get them home, for them to see their house instead of taking them in the caskets."
Lake St. Martin First Nation band member Myrle Ballard has been researching and documenting the effects of the flood.
She said it's taken a toll on community members.
"There's going to be a lot of problems because there was a lot of children born, born outside of the reserves,” said Ballard. “These children that are going back will have basically culture shock."
Lake St. Martin isn’t the only community still splintered.
From Dauphin River First Nation, 237 flood evacuees remain displaced, along with 92 from Peguis First Nation and 332 from Little Saskatchewan First Nation.
Indigenous Services Canada said 190 new homes are ready for occupancy in Lake St. Martin.
The remaining 130 are expected to be ready by November 2019.
Marsden said her sons only know life in the city.
She's not sure they'll want to leave when the time comes to move home.
A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada said the government will ensure evacuees continue to receive support through the Canadian Red Cross until they can return to their communities.