Manitoba flood evacuees are focus of new film

Families from two Manitoba communities struggle to get their lives back on track, after the 2011 flood forces them from their homes.
Absolutely Manitoba kicks off a six part series on Saturday August 23 with "Treading Water". (CBC)

A new documentary about flood evacuees from Lake St. Martin and Little Saskatchewan First Nations reveals what it's really like to be displaced for more than three years. 

Janelle Wookey is one of the filmmakers behind Treading Water: Plight of the First Nations Flood Evacuees.  She says this isn’t the story they originally set out to make.

Initially they intended to focus on Misty Lake Lodge, one of the hotels housing evacuees in Manitoba. A few months in, their plan changed.

“The story became really big in a way we couldn’t ignore what was going on around us," explained Wookey. "Scandal, controversy, the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters, all that started to come into play and we decided we needed to take a step back and show the big picture.”

Not long after they completed the documentary, an announcement was made about a new location for rebuilding Lake St. Martin.

Wookey's experience in making the film has made her skeptical about any quick resolution. “When we started making the film, we thought ‘Oh, we’ll follow them over the course of the next eight months and surely by the fall we’ll get to see them return home," she recalled. "...and that’ll be the arc of the film but obviously that didn’t quite pan out.”

Plight of the Manitoba First Nation Flood Evacuees (CBC)
While challenging, Wookey says making the film was also a rewarding experience. “The best part of making the film for us was getting the opportunity to give evacuees a voice and a chance to share their side of the story, which we felt was often forgotten.”

Treading Water airs on CBC Television in Manitoba on Saturday August 23, at 7 p.m.