New homes being sent to flood-ravaged Lake St. Martin
Chief says families forced from First Nation by 2011 flood will move into at least 30 new houses by July
More than six years after floodwaters ravaged the Lake St. Martin First Nation, members of the community are a little closer to returning home.
A brand new three-bedroom home was scheduled to be en route to the Interlake First Nation Thursday — the first of 190 houses that are due to arrive in the community by this November.
- Death toll in flooded-out Manitoba First Nation hits 92 as evacuees wait to return home
- $2.1M spent on maintaining flood evacuee village housing only 10 people
- Investigator's report suggests Lake St. Martin ballots sold for up to $300
"It is a special day for the community, the First Nation, but a bigger day is coming," said Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair.
Nearly 1,400 people from the First Nation were forced from their homes by rising floodwaters in 2011. As of last December, there were more than 1,200 Lake St. Martin flood evacuees living in private or rental homes in Winnipeg, but 29 evacuees were still in hotels.
Sinclair didn't say who will get to move into the brand new three-bedroom home being moved to the community or how tenants were selected, other than saying they are evacuees.
The chief said families are expected to move into at least 30 houses by the end of July.
Matix Lumber owner Tony Matic said his company won a bid for $32 million to build the homes, which come after years of efforts to house Lake St. Martin evacuees.
In 2011, the Manitoba government built a $14.7-million interim village for the displaced residents from Lake St. Martin.
Fifty-four homes were built and placed in the village, but the First Nation's leadership pulled the plug on the project after the government refused to hire a band-owned company to supply the homes.
Today the village sits nearly empty, with just 10 residents, and is patrolled by 24-hour security. It has cost taxpayers more than $2 million in wages and maintenance fees so far.
Sinclair said the forced evacuation of his people has been devastating and the community's death toll continues to rise.
CBC reported in April that at least 92 community members have died since the 2011 evacuation.
The death rate is several percentage points higher than Manitoba's average and a couple of percentage points above the Interlake-Eastern area rate.
Questions remain around compensation
Lake St. Martin evacuee Roseanne Beardy said she will be happy to have a new house to call home soon but said community members have had little say about the new Lake St. Martin.
Beardy has been vocal in her opposition to the band's handling of the plan to return evacuees home and said she's still waiting to hear about compensation for the people of Lake St. Martin.
"That's one thing I've always questioned leadership on," she said.
"To me it's a big thing because we've lost more than material things and we've lost a lot of people."
with files by Lyza Sale