Quietly and without much fanfare, more than 800 people from First Nations communities were evacuated from their homes this year.
This spring, seasonal flooding combined with a severe thunderstorm in June resulted in emergency flood situations on some southern Manitoba First Nations.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANDC) as of Oct. 31, 857 people remain evacuated from First Nations due to flooding in 2014.
Peguis First Nation, Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation and Ebb and Flow First Nation were all hit hard by the flooding.
Currently there are 240 people evacuated from 25 damaged homes on Ebb and Flow First Nation - a small community located west of Lake Manitoba in the rural municipality of Alonsa. That number is comparably more than the 49 people evacuated during the devastating flood of 2011.
Some evacuees have relocated to Winnipeg where they are living in apartments and local hotels.
“The flood was a drastic event which [the government] had no plan for,” Ebb and Flow First Nation Chief Nelson Houle explains over the phone. “They didn’t know how to deal with something as huge as this.”
Despite an investment of $10.9 million by the federal government to make temporary dikes built in 2011 permanent at 11 First Nations - including Ebb and Flow - chronic flooding is still impacting the community.
Not all people of Ebb and Flow have left their homes, however. Some households were spared in the flooding and others decided to stay and face mould and saturation issues instead of experiencing the uncertainty involved with becoming a displaced person.
“The mould is definitely a problem,” Adrienne Flatfoot, flood coordinator for Ebb and Flow says. “Little kids are coughing already.”
Both the Red Cross, which manages First Nations evacuees affected by flooding, and the provincial government declined to comment on the 2014 evacuations. Instead, spokespersons for both groups said AANDC is handling all media inquires.
Despite lengthy notice, by deadline AANDC was still working on a response.
According to the AANDC website, mould remediation is in preparation and a clay dike is under construction for future floods. There is no estimate for when evacuees can return.
Houle says he is hopeful that with government aid a drainage plan involving the Portage Diversion could be put in place which would help all communities affected by yearly flooding.
“Short term we can fix roads, replace homes and lower saturation levels with ditching and drainage but there’s no plan for long term,” Houle says. “There’s people living in homes that are unhealthy. There are mould issues, people are getting sick more often due to respiratory illnesses associated with mould spores getting in the lungs. Nothing is really being put in place health-wise.”
Not to mention the emotional effects of being removed from home.
“For some people this is the hardest stuff they will ever have to go through,” Houle states. “It’s definitely a process.”