Manitoba government assessing long-term flood protection for Peguis First Nation

Manitoba government officials say they are working to help Peguis First Nation in its ongoing flood fight, but stopped short of committing to specific, long-term prevention strategies or infrastructure.

The Fisher River has spilled its banks, forcing more than 1,500 people from their homes in Manitoba’s largest First Nation community.

Officials estimate several hundred homes have been affected by the rising floodwaters.

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson has called for long-term infrastructure to help protect the community from future flooding, telling CTV News on Thursday they have been lobbying the government for years.

Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said the focus right now is supporting Indigenous Services Canada and carrying out flood mitigation practices, like keeping culverts and roads clear.

Piwniuk also noted the Fisher River is currently dropping, but he’s keeping an eye on forecasted rain in the coming days.

“The variable right now is basically the forecast - that can make a difference when it comes to how much rain they're going to get in that Interlake area or how fast that comes too,” he said.

“If it comes in a long, prolonged, slow rain, it can be a different story, but when it comes, like a downpour - that can be a concern to the community.”

Manitoba’s emergency management organization head Johanu Botha also noted they are working to fill a request from Peguis First Nation for 10 tiger dam pallets and 50,000 sandbags.

Meanwhile, Piwniuk said developing a long-term flood strategy would require working alongside the federal government, but he declined to give details on what form that plan could take until further assessment can be done.

“This is a one in 100-year flood,” he said. “We have to work with the whole region. When we look at the long-term, we have to work together to make sure that everyone is participating.”

In a statement, Indigenous Services Canada said it is meeting with Manitoba’s Emergency Measures Organization, and leadership in affected First Nations, including Peguis, Fisher River, and Kinonjeoshtegon.

“The Department has activated the Canadian Red Cross which is coordinating with Peguis First Nation for the full evacuation of community members affected by overland flooding,” ISC said in a statement. “As of May 9, 2022, more than 1800 evacuees are being supported in hotels in Winnipeg, Gimli, Selkirk, and Brandon, and Portage la Prairie.”

ISC said the agreement with the Canadian Red Cross will last for one year, effective April 1, and will provide supports, including accommodation, food, laundry, and personal hygiene products.

When the immediate response is over, ISC said it will work with community members to develop recovery plans for people returning home, as well as assisting with cleanup.

“Additionally, ISC is also working in close coordination with First Nations partners to constantly evaluate available emergency response resources, including personnel and materials, ISC said. “Should local resources not be sufficient for flood protection, Canada will carefully review any requests for additional assistance.”

- With files from CTV’s Josh Crabb