Some Manitoba flood evacuees' children not in school

Some Manitoba flood evacuees who have been stuck in Winnipeg for the past year do not have their children enrolled in school, CBC News has learned.
Several Manitoba First Nations, such as the Lake St. Martin First Nation, were seriously damaged by last spring's historic floods. (CBC)

Some Manitoba flood evacuees who have been stuck in Winnipeg for the past year do not have their children enrolled in school.

Roughly 2,600 people, mostly residents of First Nations, have been temporarily housed in Winnipeg hotel rooms since they were forced to leave their flooded communities last spring.

CBC News has learned that approximately 170 young flood evacuees are currently enrolled in Winnipeg schools.

However, no level of government has tracked the exact number of evacuees attending classes, and no one could say how many should be in school.

Skylar Sutherland, 16, was seen hanging out with friends at a Winnipeg hotel on a weekday. The teen said he has not attended school for most of the past year since his home community, the Peguis First Nation, was evacuated.

"It gets boring at times, but it's alright, I guess," Sutherland said.

Priscilla Sumner, who had to leave the flooded Dauphin River First Nation with her family last year, said she pulled her three children out of school four months ago, when they were relocated to a hotel in a different part of the city.

"I had to take them by bus and it was always cold, and it just started to get too hard," said Sumner, who has since enrolled her children in school in the past week.

"It's hard," she added. "I used to think it was easy to just raise them up and have them [at] home, but it's easier to have them in school."

'We didn't ask for this,' says chief

Another family from the Peguis First Nation had none of its three school-aged children enrolled in classes.

Members of that family would not speak on camera, but one relative told CBC News the family has been relocated to so many different hotels, the children are paying a high price as they are forced to move from school to school.

About 170 flood evacuees are currently enrolled in Winnipeg schools, but no level of government could say how many should be in class. (CBC)

Some flood evacuees have also blamed the unfamiliarity of urban life that some of them face.

"As far as being put into this setting, we didn't ask for this," said Peguis Chief Glen Hudson.

"You see, it's much more than just being out of a flooded home. There's many residual effects."

Eric Robinson, Manitoba's minister of aboriginal affairs, said he is concerned that some flood evacuees' children will have lost an academic year by the time they return to their home communities.

"That's unacceptable," he said.

Robinson said it is up to First Nations to monitor school enrolment. He promised to take the issue of evacuees' enrolment to a government advisory group on flood issues.

"The issue of kids not going to school will obviously be addressed," the minister said.

"Whoever has the primary responsibility for that, or whoever is closest to that situation, ought to be taking a lead role in ensuring that the kids are going to school."