Ineligible flood claims higher than thought for Lake St. Martin
The number of Lake St. Martin band members whose flood benefits have been deemed ineligible is now 170, a figure that is considerably higher than first thought.
In March, federal officials said they were examining how benefits were being handled for the band, which was affected by severe flooding in 2011.
Originally, it was estimated that as many as 100 people may have been receiving benefits, even though they were not living in the community when flooding happened.
On Friday, the number of ineligible recipients from the band was 170, according to officials with the federal government.
"In this case clearly the numbers were higher than they should have been," Sid Dutchak, a senior official with the federal Aboriginal Affairs Department, said Friday. "And from what I see, I don't expect to see this with the other First Nations we're involved with. But you know I can't say that with certainty today."
Dutchak also said it was too early to say if any cases would be forwarded to authorities for criminal investigation.
Band members who have been found to be ineligible for flood assistance are to receive formal notice that they are being cut off, on Tuesday.
They will be told that their benefits will end, at the end of May.
Rarihokwats, an advisor to the band, said they are preparing to help members who get cut off from benefits.
He said the findings of federal officials can be challenged and encouraged people to speak up.
"If you feel you that are being treated unjustly, please provide us with a written statement and the First Nation will advocate for them," he said.
The federal government has spent $12 million to support Lake St. Martin evacuees as of late January, and that price tag is expected to keep growing.
When flooding hit the reserve, which is about 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg, most Lake St. Martin band members were forced out of their homes, with hundreds put up in Winnipeg hotels. Almost a year later, many of the evacuees were still living in hotel rooms.
There were 1,300 registered Lake St. Martin evacuees as of mid-March.