Appeals court strikes down injunction on Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin outlet channels project

An appeals court has struck down an injunction placed on the Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin outlet channels project – a move Manitoba's premier is calling a temporary victory.

When the floodwater came in 2011, Twin Lakes Beach homeowner Harry Frederick said there was little notice.

“Surprisingly faster than I would have believed it was,” said Frederick. “I would suggest 15 minutes and we were way past your knees in that time.”

Frederick and other Lake Manitoba residents hard hit by the flood a decade ago are still waiting for the outlet channels project. It is a $540 million flood protection plan to drain water from Lake Manitoba to Lake Winnipeg via Lake St. Martin.

“We can plan for the future now if we knew we were going to be protected,” said Frederick.

On Friday an appeals court overturned an injunction against the project filed by four First Nations communities.

While people living in Twin Lakes Beach say they are hopeful the project could move forward, they are tempering their expectations.

Premier Brian Pallister said the court decision will allow for more preparation work, but said it is a temporary victory, as federal environmental and consultation red tape is bogging down the project.

“We’re just spinning our wheels, when we should be protecting people against flooding," said Pallister. “I’d like to get this project underway, we’re talking about digging a ditch right now.”

The Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, representing the four communities who fought for the injunction, said the ruling is disappointing.

Chair Chief Cornell McLean said they want to partner with the province on the project. He said they’ve been left on the sidelines and worry the channels could have the opposite effect.

“We don’t want to sign off on a comprehensive settlement agreement if it’s only going to flood our communities for something that’s there, that is not going to work,” said Chief McLean.

While Chief McLean said an appeal is a consideration, they are willing to enter mediation with the province.

In a statement, NDP Indigenous Relations Critic Ian Bushie said the premier has not done proper consultation on the project.

“If the Premier was actually interested in supporting flood protection, he would have avoided expensive legal challenges by meaningfully consulting with communities in the first place," said Bushie.

Frederick hopes there is a quick resolution because he wants the channels dug so he can sleep well at night. 

“Peace of mind basically is what I’d translate that too, you can go ahead and feel safe about putting a new place up, renovating, etcetera, etcetera,” said Frederick.

He said right now they are no better off than they were ten years ago.