Manitoba's top aboriginal leader says First Nations people are once again bearing the brunt of spring flooding and it's time for that to change.
Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said native communities scramble every year to escape flood waters.
Almost 700 people have already been evacuated from their homes this spring — the majority from First Nations communities.
Evans said it's time for permanent flood protection for those low-lying communities.
National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations said flooding is a chronic problem on reserve communities and is making poor living conditions even worse.
Steve Ashton, Manitoba's emergency measures minister, said the issue has been raised with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Evacuations on First Nations
Flooding on Peguis First Nation has resulted in 612 people leaving under voluntary evacuation as of Thursday. More than 500 are now staying in Winnipeg.
More than 180 homes have been affected on the reserve, which is home to about 7,200 people and located about 190 kilometres north of Winnipeg on the Fisher River.
Even though his family has left, Warren McCorrister is staying behind to monitor water pumps.
"It just wouldn't seem right if I leave, and just let it flood, I just wanna keep my pumps going and do the best I can," he said.
People are working around the clock to protect homes with sandbag dikes. As well, two flood tube barriers have been erected in hopes of turning back the water.
There could be as many as three more major evacuations on First Nations before the end of this flood season, said Daren Mini, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF), which heads up the evacuations.
The province also announced Thursday that 24 people were removed from the Sandy Bay Ojibwe First Nation nearly 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
MANFF is watching several communities along the Red River but Mini is reluctant to name them because he doesn't want people to panic.
"Thinking, 'oh, my community is on watch. I'd better start packing," he said.
"Of course, we want to keep it locally, so that the communities are certainly working with their members and making sure that you know, the readiness is there."
There is good news, however, for the people who had to leave Dauphin River First Nation because of high water.
"So as far as we're given information that they have the green light to go home today so we're going to ensure that everybody makes it home," Mini said.