‘No timeline’ for rebuilding, says Peguis man visiting home condemned after 2022 flood

Darryle Sinclair is one of many evacuees from Peguis First Nation who could be stuck without homes for years while plans for future home builds and flood mitigation efforts continue. 

“We have to move and relocate,” Sinclair said. “For a replacement home, we have to wait until everything’s ready and gets back to normal. It’s tough.”

But as of now, he doesn’t know when that will be.

“No timeline,” he said. “I’m kind of crossing my fingers and hoping it’ll be soon.”

Hundreds of homes have been condemned or are unlivable without major repairs since flooding forced more than 2,000 people to leave the First Nation in spring 2022.

Sinclair said it’s heartbreaking to look at the home he put so much work into and toknow he’ll never get to live there again. 

“You miss everything,” he said. “You want to be with your friends and neighbours. You want your family here.”

Revisiting condemned home

Sinclair went back to his home last week for one of the first times since his entire basement was filled with water last spring. 

“No power,” he said as he walked in the front door. The walls, windows and doors were all covered in frost. Everything else had a layer of dust. 

A frost covered door in a home.
The doors in Darryle Sinclair’s home are covered in frost. (CBC)

Walking down the basement stairs, Sinclair could barely see in front of him. It was pitch black without power.

As he took the last step down the stairs and onto the ground, ice cracked below his feet, exposing the water below it. 

“This is all new,” he said as his feet slipped along the ice. “That has come up from the pump.”

Mould covers one entire wall.

“My one granddaughter calls it the stink house,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t blame her. It does.”

A basement wall covered in mould.
The walls of Darryle Sinclair’s basement are covered in mould since the spring flood. (Brittany Greenslade/CBC)

Sinclair and his family were sent to a hotel for the first few months, and more recently were able to move into a family member’s home in Fisher Branch, Man., but it’s being sold this summer. He said the last nine months have been hectic and overwhelming. 

“Looking for a place to live all the time … homeless. First time I’m ever homeless with my family,” he said.

“When you’re homeless, it’s scary. Where am I gonna live next? Where am I gonna get my next hot meal?”

Flood not the only battle

While dealing with the flood aftermath these past few months, Sinclair has also been battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.

“Cancer on top of worrying about my home and family. It’s really bad,” he said. 

Sinclair spent months driving back and forth between his hotel in Winnipeg and CancerCare in Gimli, Man., where he was receiving treatment. 

An open door covered in frost with frost covered windows beside it.
The doors and windows inside this Peguis First Nation home are covered in frost. (Brittany Greenslade/CBC)

“All I did was pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed,” he said. “We’re still here. We’re still living every day.”

While it’s been a struggle these last few months, last week Sinclair got some positive news: His cancer is in remission. 

“The biggest fight is done,” he said. Now his focus has turned to getting healthy and getting a new home. 

Raising homes and repatriation

William Sutherland, Director of Housing & Emergency Management at Peguis First Nation, has been dealing with home assessments and plans while also trying to get as many evacuees back to Peguis as quickly as possible. 

“Dealing with with repatriation of evacuees not only from 2022, but also notifying the other people that were impacted from previous [flood] events to get them home,” Sutherland said. 

While Peguis is the largest First Nation in Manitoba, Sutherland said it is also the most flood-prone. But that wasn’t always the case. 

In the early 1900’s the people of Peguis were forced from their original land close to Selkirk, Man., because the city started booming economically. 

The land was forcibly surrendered and the community was relocated to the basin more than 180 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Now they are left to find solutions while the area is repeatedly flooded. 

Sutherland said there are several plans in place, including increased dike work around key areas and planning for worst-case future scenarios.

“We still have to build up to the one-in-200 year flood level,” he said. “But with Peguis being in a giant basin and the most-flood prone First Nation in Manitoba and the largest First Nation in Manitoba, it’s an ongoing process.”

While they are still compiling the total list of how many homes will need to be raised, he said it will be in the hundreds.

A man dressed in a black partially zipped jacket standing outside during the winter on Peguis First Nation.
William Sutherland is the Director of Housing & Emergency Management on Peguis First Nation. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

“It has to be done. It can’t be just repair work,” he said. “If we repair a home just to get it re-flooded and re-damaged again in another flood event, then that’s really not the solution, right? Let’s build it up, flood mitigate those homes.”

Chief Glenn Hudson said the First Nation is working with Indigenous Services Canada but it’s a slow process. He said they are still waiting on funding approvals to be able to move forward with any major home repairs, moves or rebuilds and those could take up to three years. 

Hudson said so far, money’s been spent on getting the community up and running again. 

“The $18 million has been just on on recovery and getting our community back functional,” he said. “Getting some of these homes of the 1,200 people that have returned, the repairs done to their homes.”

Indigenous Services Canada said it continues to work with Peguis to address housing needs in the community. 

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said she recently met with the chief and said the Liberal government is committed to moving as quickly as possible with him and the First Nation to restore and rebuild homes. 

A grey haired woman wearing a black winter jacket with a fur trimmed hood standing outside on a street in the winter.
Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal Liberal government is committed to moving as quickly as possible to restore, repair and build homes with the Peguis First Nation. (CBC)

“We’re waiting for some details actually from Peguis right now and as soon as we have those plans complete, we can start,” Hajdu told CBC News.

“It will be staged work, I’m sure, but there is an opportunity in this rebuild to take a look at how to make the community more resistant to the kinds of flooding events that they’ve seen.”

ISC said that as of Jan. 26 it has received 80 independent damage assessments done by certified professionals for the 2022 flooding event. 

“At this time, of those 80 assessments, ISC has confirmed that 36 units will be replaced, 38 units will be renovated/rehabilitated and six remain in discussion with the First Nation,” a spokesperson for ISC told CBC News. 

Funding for damage assessments to date related to the 2022 flooding event have been approved for a total of $905,758, ISC said, of which 30 per cent of funding has been advanced so Peguis First Nation can continue this work. 

“ISC and the First Nation will then proceed with the remaining reimbursements once the department receives the remaining documentation. Funds have not yet flowed for housing replacements from the flooding event as damage assessments needed to be done first and are ongoing,” the spokesperson said. 

View original article here Source