Members of four Manitoba First Nations are one step closer to being compensated for flooding that forced them from their homes back in 2011.
Their lawyers are in court today, providing details of a $90-million settlement agreed to by the Manitoba and federal governments.
“It’s not insignificant. It’s substantial. I can’t give an exact number but we’re not looking at hundreds of dollars; we’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars that could get into the hands of some of those most severely impacted,” says Sabrina Lombardi, a partner with McKenzie Lake Lawyers in London, Ont.
“They’ve been waiting for that opportunity to just put this behind them and just move on. And this settlement along with the other settlements involved, in terms of dealing with rebuilding of infrastructure on reserves and those kinds of things, combined. It’s a way forward for them now, finally, after all this time.”
Clifford Anderson, 59, agrees. A member of the Pinaymootang First Nation, he’s one of the plaintiffs representing the evacuees in the lawsuit.
“This is the first time it’s happened in Manitoba where an individual band member has gone to court for something like this. We’ve always relied on the chief and council to do something for them,” Anderson says.
“Money will never make up for the emotional impact of what the province made us go through at the time. For a lot of us, still dealing with the impact to this day, it’ll help financially to replace some of the costs incurred during and after the flood.”
About 4,000 people from Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River and Pinaymootang First Nations had to leave their homes after spring floods in 2011.
The Manitoba government diverted water from the swollen Assiniboine River into Lake Manitoba to prevent Winnipeg from being inundated. The surge in water levels resulted in considerable damage to homes, cottages and farmland.
The lawsuit claimed the government was negligent in its operation of a number of water-control structures, including the Shellmouth Dam and the Portage Diversion.