Manitoba

Manitoba First Nation seeks new home

Officials and members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation hope a meeting held Tuesday with Manitoba officials is the first step toward finding a new place to call home.
In April, members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation marched in Winnipeg to press their case for a new reserve. ((Sean Kavanagh/CBC))

Members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation hope a meeting held Tuesday with Manitoba officials is the first step toward finding a new place to call home.

The band's reserve, about 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has been plagued by flooding for decades, but this year's disaster has doomed the site. About 600 residents were forced from their homes in May, and provincial officials say the reserve is beyond reclamation.

The province has suggested temporarily relocating the First Nation to Gypsumville, but the band wants to settle near Highway 6 about 50 kilometres south of the old reserve.

"We have no economy right now, so we chose that site for a reason — so we can start generating revenue for our First Nation's people," Chief Adrian Sinclair told CBC News.

Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak said it could be years before the governments approve the move. And some residents may settle at the site south of the old reserve much sooner than that.

"It's not the province's jurisdiction to tell treaty people where they are going to live. The jurisdiction rests with the people and if they've chosen a site on Highway 6, called site 7, that's where they want to be [and] that's where it's going to be," he said.

Sinclair said members of the community are vulnerable to gangs and drugs in Winnipeg, where they have been living since May, and are desperate to move back to the country.

While the province is responsible for compensating communities for flood damage, the federal government has jurisdiction over reserves and no federal representative was present at Tuesday's meeting.

A federal representative will be in town on Friday, however, raising hopes that some progress can be made.

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