Some 540 Peguis First Nation residents still displaced after 2022 flooding

A Manitoba First Nations has declared a state of emergency in response to the ongoing health crisis impacting the community.

The chief of Peguis First Nation, in Manitoba’s Interlake area, says the crisis is directly linked to devastating floods, the worst of which came in 2022.

“This declaration is driven by a severe crisis that affects not just our land and homes, but the very spirit and mental well-being of our people,” said Chief Dr. Stan Bird.

Peguis First Nation has endured persistent flooding over the years, resulting in damage to infrastructure and housing. Two years after one of the worst floods to ever hit the community, damage still remains.

Peguis First Nation, April 30, 2024. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)

“This state of emergency is declared to urgently address these critical mental-health needs, along with ensuring housing safety and bolstering community resilience,” Chief Bird said.

The chief says the social, mental, and physical well-being of Peguis First Nation members have been impacted negatively from the flooding.

Peguis First Nation Chief Dr. Stan Bird. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)

“The answer is to allow Peguis to do how they see fit,” said Patricia Caribou, the team lead and supervisor with the Peguis Wellness Team. “How to help the families, how to help the individuals, how to help everybody. Peguis has their one answer for mental health, physical health, the whole holistic healing of the community.”

Cindy Spence, the First Nation’s superintendent of education, says flood damage has impacted education for students in the community.

“Until government comes and sits down, and starts to address this issue with Peguis First Nation, they are keeping our people in poverty and they are taking away from the education rights of the students on Peguis First Nation,” Spence said.

Since 2000, on average, Peguis has suffered a flood every two years.

More than 540 members remain unable to return to Peguis due to the 2022 flood, and 235 more have been displaced since flooding evacuations occurred in 2014 and 2017.

The community recently filed a $1 billion flood damage lawsuit against the federal and provincial governments, as well against two rural communities.

“Both levels of government, the Manitoba government, and the Government of Canada, have declared this to be an era of truth and reconciliation and the litigation is really about seeking truth and the declaration is about reconciliation,” said Jeremy McKay, legal council for Peguis First Nation.

“We need to know what has been causing the flooding problems in Peguis, and as you heard today, the chief and council have committed to working with both levels of government to try and find a solution quickly to prevent future disasters from harming Peguis and its community members.”

Jeremy McKay, legal council for Peguis First Nation. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)
Peguis sign in Peguis First Nation, April 30, 2024. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)

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