'A place to call home again': Long walk raises awareness of evacuated community
Granville Lake residents have been evacuated since 2003
David Bighetty arrived at the Manitoba Legislative Building Thursday after a month-long walk from Leaf Rapids raising awareness about the evacuation of his northern Manitoba community that's been ongoing for 15 years.
Bighetty was joined by 20 others originally from Granville Lake, Man., a community about 740 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg that was evacuated in 2003 due to unsanitary conditions in the community.
Nearly all of the roughly 90 residents of Granville have been living 45 kilometres away in Leaf Rapids ever since.
"I'm determined to make Granville Lake home again," explained Bighetty, who organized the 1,000-km walk to demand government address water and sewer issues that forced the evacuation.
"That's our homeland and I want to make sure everyone has a place to call home again."
The problems in Granville Lake started in March 2003 when frozen pipes forced the population to draw their drinking water directly from a sewage-infested lake.
A malfunctioning sewage system, which caused waste to ooze out of the ground and into the lake, added to their woes.
At the time, residents told CBC News the lake contamination had caused their children to develop skin rashes, diarrhea and other ailments.
The issues forced the mayor of Granville to evacuate the community.
'There's nothing there'
At a rally held on the steps of the legislature Thursday, Bighetty said there's only about six people who remain in the community now.
He says there's still no running water, no sewer and infrastructure, including housing, is in bad shape.
"There's doors wide open, all the windows are boarded up, there's no community hall, and the nursing station is wide open," he said, adding he's heard the roof recently caved in at the school.
"There's nothing there."
Bighetty also hoped the walk would bring awareness to the social repercussions that have stemmed from community members spending years away from their homes.
A post on the walk's Facebook page says the community has seen an increase in criminal activity, suicide, alcoholism, and residents haven't had access to traditional forms of hunting, fishing and trapping since the evacuation.
"It's time for all of us to wake up and take control of our communities," said Bighetty.
"We are treaty people and this is our land and we need to come up with resolutions to fix our home."