Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, natural
disasters have been ravaging First Nations reserves in the
Prairie provinces, leaving many without homes and basic
Manitoba has been ravaged by a flood
season that has torn apart First Nations reserves. In the
past 15 months, at least five major floods have left
Manitoba First Nations reserves in dire straits. The Peguis
First Nation has seen 207 of its members evacuated, with an
additional 100 to be added. Their water sources are
contaminated as the floods have destroyed basic
infrastructure, including their sewage system.
In Saskatchewan, a tornado hit the Kawacatoose First
Nation last Friday, ripping through homes. The reserve was
already dealing with housing shortages such that, on
average, four families were living in a single unit. This
tornado has compounded the devastation and has created an
immensely tough situation for the community.
These First Nations communities have been told that it
may take years to deal with the damage to their reserves.
This is unacceptable.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain
to honourable senators how her government is dealing with
these crises, as concrete solutions are needed now? With all
this money being spent on infrastructure in the government's
touted Economic Action Plan, where is the money for disaster
relief on First Nations reserves?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, obviously the flooding on the Prairies
is of great concern, not only to the people living on
reserves, but also to the agricultural sector.
In response to questions by Senator Peterson about the
situation faced by farmers, wheat and oilseeds growers, I
responded that the minister in that case was literally in
the fields meeting with the provincial officials.
With regard to flooding on the reserves, there has been
considerable damage, as Senator Dyck has stated. People have
been forced from their homes. I do not have the details
before me, but I do know that Minister Chuck Strahl, the
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has
been working with the people in the communities and the
provincial departments. Even though this is a federal
responsibility, there are also implications for the
provinces. Unfortunately, since I do not have the
information here, I will have to provide a written response
to Senator Dyck.
Senator Dyck: I have a supplementary question. One
of the articles with regard to the tornado situation on the
Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan stated that it was
thought the tornado might be a higher category level simply
because of the extent of the devastation of the homes. The
article suggested that the houses constructed were of a
lesser standard than would have been the situation in a
Could the minister look into the standards for housing on
First Nations reserves? Are they substandard compared to
Senator LeBreton: That is a difficult question. A
considerable amount of money has been expended on housing on
reserves, so I would doubt they are substandard.
I will ask the question, honourable senators. When a
tornado strikes, we have seen many examples where huge farm
buildings, tractors and machinery get tossed around like
little toys. Therefore, I cannot imagine that any house
could withstand that kind of weather condition. In any
event, I will ask the question.