Lake St. Martin students back in Winnipeg classrooms

Children from Lake St. Martin First Nation are finally back in their temporary Winnipeg school.
Classes at the temporary school for Lake St. Martin students finally resumed on Tuesday after a two-week forced break due to building code violations. (John Redekop/CBC)

Children from Lake St. Martin First Nation are finally back in their temporary Winnipeg school.

The 68 students, all flood evacuees forced from their home reserve in 2011, had been attending classes in Winnipeg. The First Nation is renting space in the building, a decommissioned junior high school on Ness Avenue, and using it for Kindergarten to Grade 9 classes.

But two weeks ago, the doors to the school were locked by city inspectors who found several fire code violations in the building.

The school is now up to code.

The students thought they would be returning on Monday but the First Nation still had to get the occupancy permit.

Everything was in order Tuesday morning, in time for the first bell.

Flooded-out reserve

The Lake St. Martin reserve, located in the Interlake area about 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg, was evacuated in May 2011 due to severe spring flooding.

The federal government had been covering flood evacuees' food and lodging expenses, but some people's benefits were cut off earlier this year after their claims were deemed to be ineligible.

While some found other places to live, including a temporary village set up by the province — a decommissioned military radar base near Gypsumville off Highway 6 — others remained in Winnipeg as their children had already started attending the school.

Meanwhile, the province is still looking for a more permanent location for the band members, whose reserve has been deemed inhabitable due to the flooding damage and future risks.

But many refuse to move into the interim village. They are demanding land in an area between the communities of Grahamdale and Moosehorn, Man., for their new community instead.

Many are worried that if they move into the temporary location, they may be stuck there and never get a permanent community with proper infrastructure or amenities.