Manitoba

'We just want to go home': First Nations storm evacuees grow tired of Winnipeg

First Nations evacuees who were forced from their homes after the Thanksgiving long weekend storm want to return home after spending days crammed in hotel rooms.

About 6,000 First Nations evacuees have registered with the Red Cross

Shirley Sinclair, a Dauphin River resident, says young evacuees are partying in her hotel, ruining the stay in Winnipeg for her family who was forced from their home due to the Manitoba Hydro outage. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Shirley Sinclair is no stranger to city hotels. The Dauphin River resident lived in them for almost a year after the 2011 flood and is back in one again while she waits for power to be restored to her First Nation.

Sinclair, who arrived at the Holiday Inn in Winnipeg on Ellice Avenue near the airport on Saturday, is already anxious to go home.

She and her husband are taking care of three grandchildren and have had trouble sleeping due to younger evacuees who've been partying.

"Our young people, the ones who don't have responsibilities, are the ones that are spoiling it for us in the hotel rooms because any chance they get, a few dollars, they go and buy booze and whatever and they party it up all night," she said noting the parties have continued at her hotel until 3 a.m.

Warren Bird drove elders from Peguis First Nation to Winnipeg after the power went out in his Interlake community. He says the elders don't understand what's going on and want to go home. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Sinclair is worried about young people from her community getting involved with the wrong crowd while in Winnipeg. She saw this happen first-hand to her own daughter in 2011 when her family lived in a city hotel for 11½ months.

"That's when her drug addiction really stepped up and going downhill," she said.

Sinclair is one of about 6,000 Manitoba First Nations evacuees the Red Cross said had registered by Wednesday morning. The evacuees were displaced by the weekend storm that left hundreds of thousands of customers without power, triggering a provincewide state of emergency.

First Nations representatives co-ordinate at the Victoria Inn Wednesday. The hotel is where evacuees find out where they are staying in the city. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Red Cross said most of the evacuees are staying with relatives and friends. Some are in hotels in Winnipeg, Brandon and Dauphin and others are staying at a temporary shelter at the RBC Convention Centre where 80 people slept on cots Tuesday night.

A second temporary shelter set up for evacuees was being taken down Wednesday due to a lack of need, Red Cross spokesperson Jason Small said.

No power, no food

Warren Bird drove elders from his home in Peguis First Nation to Winnipeg on Sunday.

"It's unfortunate our elders are confused and they don't know why they're here," he said. "So we have to explain to them every day why they're here. That we have no power that there's no food, nothing there for them back home."

Chief Glenn Hudson says the power may not be restored fully until Friday or Saturday in Peguis. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Bird, who had to leave his three dogs back home for a relative to check on, had praise for the Red Cross and said his experience in Winnipeg has been positive and quiet.

"Truly grateful for the Red Cross for all their support. Not only to my community but everybody in Manitoba that has been affected by this storm," he said.

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson said approximately 60 per cent of his Interlake reserve was still without power on Wednesday with most electricity being only on the main highway near the community.

The chief expects it to remain out until at least Friday or Saturday and said about 800 people have been forced from their homes.

He said evacuees have been staying in hotels but some have had to check out due to previously arranged bookings.

"It's been difficult. But at the same time, people have been understanding."

The chief said some Peguis residents are staying in the dark, refusing to leave their community to make sure no buildings flood.

Peguis has also set up an emergency centre at the community's school where food is being given out and people can warm up.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca