Manitoba

Families still fighting for compensation 10 years after flood

A decade after 1997's "flood of the century" swamped the Red River Valley, some families are still battling with the provincial government for compensation for flooding they say was the result of efforts to save the city of Winnipeg.

A decade after 1997's "flood of the century" swamped the Red River Valley, some families are still battling with the provincial government for compensation for flooding they say was the result of efforts to save the city of Winnipeg.

In 1997, a group of flooded residents south of Winnipeg launched a class-action suit against the province, arguing the operation of the Red River Floodway artificially raised water levels, resulting in damage to their homes and properties.

In the intervening years, 20 families have settled with the province out of court. But two continue to fight.

Richard Klassen, one of the two continuing the fight, spent $900,000 to repair damage caused by the 1997 flood. The government has yet to make him a reasonable offer for his losses, he says.

Klassen believes he has a strong case: his home had never flooded before and was surrounded by a dike that met government requirements.

Many of the affected residents realize their homes had to be sacrificed to prevent massive flooding in Winnipeg, he says — but they should be fairly compensated for their losses, he argues.

Klassen says he knows why most of his neighbours have settled: "By far, the majority of them had to drop out because they could not afford the ticket to get into court."

But he is determined to stay with the case until he has his day in court.

"There have been so many families have been devastated by this and have not been able to carry out the process to a satisfactory conclusion," he told CBC. "I think that we need to do that. It's a social responsibility to carry it through to its ultimate end."

Lawyer Patrick Riley, who represents the claimants in the suit, says the long battle has taken its toll on many clients.

"It has been difficult," he said. "We were dealing with, actually, insurance companies at the other side, ultimately. And they don't like to give away money."

The case is not expected to go to trial for another year, and Klassen expects the trial will cost him another $60,000.

He believes he owes it to the other residents who have given up.

"The people deserve to be recognized for the sacrifice they made for the city," he said.