Advertisement

Peguis First Nation files $1 billion claim against all levels of government over devastating 2022 flood

Click to play video: 'Peguis First Nation files $1 billion claim against all levels of government over devastating 2022 flood'
Peguis First Nation files $1 billion claim against all levels of government over devastating 2022 flood
Peguis First Nation has filed a $1 billion claim for flood damages against all levels of government following the devastating spring 2022 flood – Apr 24, 2024

Peguis First Nation has filed a $1 billion claim for flood damages against all levels of government following the devastating spring 2022 flood.

The claim was filed in the Court of King’s Bench against the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Rural Municipalities of Bifrost and Fisher.

“We just want Manitobans and Canadians to recognize the situation that we were put in, and it’s not by our own doing, but it’s something that we have to face and try to deal with every year,” Chief Stan Bird told reporters Wednesday.

This comes almost two years after major flooding devastated the community of about 11,700 people, damaging numerous homes and forcing many people to evacuate. Peguis First Nation officials say approximately 500 homes were affected by the flood, and the estimated cost of repairing, replacing, or relocating the homes exceeds $275 million, while the costs of repairing damaged infrastructure and installing permanent flood protection are still being assessed.

Story continues below advertisement

Brian Meronek, legal counsel for Peguis First Nation, says the billion-dollar figure is an estimate of what it would take to repair and replace the damaged homes, and put in adequate, permanent flood mitigation infrastructure.

The First Nation says about 549 community members are still unable to return home. Many of them have been staying in hotels in Winnipeg ever since the flood. Another 235 members also haven’t been able to return to the community after separate flooding events in 2014 and 2017. Chief Bird says this has had a devastating impact on community members.

“It’s had a huge impact on their mental health, on the families. There’s been separation, people are dying in the city. There’s been sickness that’s been happening with our people, their physical health has suffered,” Chief Bird said.

“And just the overall uncertainty with their lives has had a huge impact. And that’s not including the anger that we hear and that we feel each day from our members because they’re in that situation. So there are lot of impacts that this repeated flooding has had on the people.”

After the 2022 flood, a working group was established between Peguis First Nation and the provincial and federal governments to create permanent solutions for flood mitigation and protection. The First Nation says no solutions have been implemented by either level of government.

“We’ve gone that route multiple times, we’ve been at the table multiple times. We started again in 2022. So we’ve been at the table talking, with no clear solution in sight, it’s more talk,” Chief Bird said.

Story continues below advertisement

“We need to look after our own interests as a people and as a community. So this is one of the steps we must take to get government to act, because up to this point, nothing has been done.”

In 1907, an illegal land transfer relocated Peguis First Nation to its current location; a low-lying area along the Fisher River, about 196 kilometres north of Winnipeg, Man. which has been prone to repeated flooding.

According to the First Nation, the community suffers an average of one flood every two years. First Nation officials say land use changes in the RM of Fisher saw forestland converted into farmland between 1966 and 2021, resulting in wetlands being drained. Peguis, downstream of the municipality, says the land use changes have caused a 30 per cent rise in flood peaks in the community.

“The days of protecting the upstream interest of others, at the expense of Peguis, are over,” Chief Bird said in a press release.

A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada tells Global News it received the statement of claim on Wednesday, and said ISC will continue support Peguis and its community members with mitigation, repatriation, rebuilding, and recovery.

“For a long time Peguis First Nation has experienced flooding to various degrees. Indigenous Services Canada has been and continues to work with Peguis First Nation. ISC has been supporting Peguis First Nation throughout flooding events and continues to support evacuees that have been affected by these events,” the spokesperson stated in an email.

Story continues below advertisement

“A recent example is on October 19, 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Minister Hajdu to formalize long-term flood protection for the Peguis First Nation and recovery from recurring flooding. In addition, from May 2022 to March 2023, ISC provided approximately $18 million to Peguis First Nation for flood response and recovery, including advance payments made to ease the burden of the First Nation’s cash flow and to support 2023 flood preparation.”

In an emailed statement to Global News, a provincial spokesperson confirmed the province is aware of the claim, but declined to comment as the matter is now before the courts.

Sponsored content

AdChoices