Premier says province’s support continues for evacuees fleeing Winnipeg apartment at risk of collapse

Premier Wab Kinew says his government will continue to support people forced to flee from a Winnipeg apartment building. Morgan Modjeski reports.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew has promised that no one will end up on the streets as the result of a forced evacuation of a Portage Avenue apartment building, but anger, anxiety and uncertainty still face some of the most vulnerable people evacuated from Birchwood Terrace, a building emergency officials called a “potential disaster” due to risk of collapse.

Apologising for unnecessary stress over a June 30 date given to evacuees, Premier Kinew said support will continue beyond that on Wednesday, detailing how his government is examining the framework buildings are inspected to ensure the province learns from the incident.

When asked, Kinew said he’d like to see Ladco Company Ltd. — owners of Birchwood Terrace — cover the costs of the emergency evacuation. 

“Any person in Manitoba who thinks about what’s fair in this situation, you have a private company who’s created a situation of stress for so many people, and now it’s up to the taxpayers of Manitoba to step in, is that fair? I don’t know what the specific remedy is yet, we’re going through that process of figuring out: how do we address the situation?” stated Premier Kinew.

Many of the roughly 250 people affected have found places to live, but there are still vulnerable people waiting to go home; people like Debby Ross. 

“Everybody is cracking up. Everybody is fighting. Everybody is crying. This is not right. This is inhumane,” said Ross. 

With recent emergency food allocations for evacuees dropping to $34 a day and no news, or help, from Ladco, many say they’ve been let down by the Winnipeg landlord. 

“We haven’t had any respect at all from Ladco. Red Cross has been terrific, without them, I don’t know where a lot of these people would be,” said Joyce Hilborn. 

The group of seniors, all on a fixed income, says apartments are costly, and with people’s entire lives left behind inside the building, tenants have had no access, moving out of the now provincially supported accommodations isn’t an option if they wanted.  

“The hardest part is trying to make my budget; for a cat, parking, and a building that has an elevator, because I need accessibility,” said Doreen Amadatsu.  

They say while it is good news to hear accommodations will be offered beyond June 30, they want to see more action from the government in affordable, safe, and suitable housing, and more accountability from Ladco on efforts to support tenants’ return home. 

“That’s my home. I don’t want to go into an apartment where it’s not comfortable or I’m not used to it, that’s my home there. That’s where I want to go,” said Lucy Porter. 

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