New homes offered to Lake St. Martin flood evacuees
Some Lake St. Martin First Nation members who were displaced by last year's floods will soon move into temporary homes set up by the Manitoba government, but not everyone plans to move in.
It has been nine months since the First Nation was evacuated due to spring flooding. Many of the evacuees have been staying in hotel rooms while the province and the First Nation worked out interim arrangements.
On Wednesday, the Manitoba government showed off the homes it has installed for the Lake St. Martin evacuees, as part of a temporary village on a decommissioned military radar base off Highway 6.
The province is inviting First Nation members to move into the homes starting early next month. However, 43 families have signed up to date — just 12 per cent of Lake St. Martin's overall evacuee population.
Gordon Traverse, who plans to move into a temporary home with his family, said he has spent enough time in a Winnipeg hotel room.
"I have no reason to stick around here anymore. I'm happy with the outcome of what the province said to us," said Traverse, who has even welcomed a grandson into the world within the past nine months.
The First Nation's leadership and the province have been locked in a dispute over the temporary village in recent months, with First Nation officials wanting a permanent village.
Officials have openly discouraged members from accepting the temporary homes. But in a statement Wednesday, the First Nation said it does not oppose or endorse the province's arrangement.
Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair was not available to comment on Wednesday.
The $40-million cost of the temporary homes is being covered by federal disaster assistance funding.
Provincial officials say the former radar site is safe, after they tested the area for contaminants before building the homes.