By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The first new houses are on the way for a Manitoba First Nations community devastated by flooding six years ago.
The Lake St. Martin reserve was hit hard in the spring of 2011 and almost 2,000 people had to leave their homes.
Last November, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada put out a bid for tenders to build 150 homes in the community.
Many have been living in hotels and rental suites in Winnipeg and elsewhere during the long wait to return home.
Matix Lumber held a celebration Thursday morning to mark the first home leaving its yard and heading to the reserve, about 225 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair, members of his council and representatives of the provincial and federal government attended the ceremony.
In January, the Manitoba Court of Appeal approved a class-action lawsuit by four First Nations, including Lake St. Martin, against the provincial government.
The central question is whether the province’s action to fight the high water caused the extensive Interlake flooding that affected 7,000 people.
Manitoba responded to the flood by diverting water from the Assiniboine River system to Lake Manitoba. The First Nations argue that spared the urban south from the brunt of the damage at the expense of their area.
The province has always denied the allegation.
The federal government’s cost of accommodating displaced First Nations members had topped $90 million by 2014.
(CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)