Inuvik MLA says help needed for residents affected by flooding

After flooding inundated some people outside Inuvik last week, Lesa Semmler wants to know what kind of funding is available for people whose cabins and personal property were damaged.

Some people outside the town were evacuated from their cabins last week

Water floods Diane Koe's cabin outside of Inuvik, N.W.T. Koe and her partner were evacuated by helicopter last weekend. (Submitted by Connor Gould)

Water levels on the Mackenzie River are continuing to decrease, but some Inuvik residents are still dealing with the aftermath of flooding, says Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler.

In the legislature Tuesday, Semmler said many residents headed out on the land or to their cabins to "seek refuge and help stop the spread early on [during the] COVID-19 [pandemic]," something that was encouraged by the territory's chief public health officer.

Now, Semmler is wondering what the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) is going to do to help residents that are dealing with damages. 

"Many residents in my community were forced to leave their cabins, some in the middle of the night," said Semmler, referring to the flooding that inundated some people at their cabins last week.

"In some cases people have had to leave a lot of their personal belongings and have suffered great loss to their cabins, their personal property."

In the 17 years on record, this year's water levels are the highest, reaching up to 16.5 metres.

What funding is available?

Premier and community affairs minister Caroline Cochrane said one option for people dealing with flood damage is the Disaster Assistance Policy, though she says it is meant for primary properties.

The other is the Harvester Disaster Compensation Program via the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, she said. 

'People have ... suffered great loss to their cabins, their personal property,' says Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

"It provides support to N.W.T. harvesters when they suffer loss or damages to their assets to help them with their harvesting."

For harvesters to qualify, they must have a general hunting licence or be a land-claim beneficiary. Residents also need to prove that harvesting provides 25 per cent of their gross annual income.

That program could provide someone with up to $4,500.

Cochrane said she would make sure to publicize this resource to harvesters and that "the [territorial government] is known for not being the best communicator but this assembly is trying to do better."

Proactive vs. reactive

Semmler also asked if the community affairs department will look for future ways that could help prevent damage to residents' properties, such as moving or raising their properties. 

She pointed out that climate change continues to have an impact in the Beaufort Delta region "more than anywhere else in the country."

Cochrane said this is an issue where it's harder to get money to prevent disasters.

"The federal government tends to just give money for the disasters when they happen," she said. "It is something that we need to keep with bringing awareness to the federal government.

"Climate change is affecting the North more than any other communities in Canada, and so it's important that we continue to raise that to the federal government and to look for proactive money versus just reactive money."


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