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In our latest newsletter, we talk to reporter Julia-Simone Rutgers about the experiences of Peguis residents who were forced to flee their homes as they battled the worst flood in the First Nation’s history. We also look back eight years as the Mount Polley mine re-opens

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Dysin Spence, former resident of Peguis, stands in front of his condemned childhood home with a flooded backyard.
In late April of this year, the largest First Nation in Manitoba experienced the worst flooding in the community’s history. Chunks of roadways were wiped out and more than 300 homes were damaged as Peguis tackled its fifth major flood in two decades.

It wasn’t always like this: over a century ago, the federal government actually moved the people of Peguis to the flood-prone Interlake region from their original home in St. Peters, which Chief Glenn Hudson called “some of the most productive farmland in all of Manitoba.” 

In early May, Julia-Simone Rutgers started as The Narwhal’s first Manitoba reporter in collaboration with the Winnipeg Free Press. Families that have lived along the Fisher River for generations had just been forced to relocate again — the repeated floods were on the top of Julia-Simone’s mind. 

She had read stories focused on the question of funding for long-term flood protection in Peguis, but she wanted to know more about the experience of the evacuees who had been estranged from their homes for five to 10 years.

So she started doing some outreach to connect with the community leadership and seek an invitation onto the reserve. Many social media callouts later, she found herself in Peguis one day — seeing the devastation first-hand inside mould-infested homes with crumbling foundations.

“It’s disheartening. The whole day spent with the community was emotional,” she told me, adding that the entire situation speaks to the failure of reconciliation as climate catastrophes become more frequent and more common.

“Our people deserve more and they deserve better. The solutions are there, but the commitment is needed by people in power to show there is concern for our First Nations people in this country,” Hudson said. 

Residents are rightfully frustrated with those in charge — be it community leadership or both levels of the government that argue over who foots the bill — as they’re left to fend for themselves, wondering if they’ll ever return home. 
Read Julia-Simone’s feature, as she looks to get to the bottom of these major funding gaps. 

Take care and demand a solid foundation, 

Karan Saxena, 
Audience fellow

The Narwhal looks back eight years

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Canada’s worst and largest tailings dam failure: the Mount Polley mine disaster. A design flaw led to the breach of the dam, which sent 25 million cubic metres of toxic liquid waste cascading into B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

Now, Imperial Metals, the company that owns the Mount Polley mine, wants to re-open it and continue to pump waste into Quesnel Lake for another three years — the floor of which is still covered by toxic sludge from the spill.

Imperial Metals never faced any fines for the incident, but instead won $108 million dollars in a settlement with two engineering firms involved in the construction of the dam.

The mine is set to ramp up to full production, despite strong opposition from community members and surrounding First Nations: “We give you clean water, you give us back toxic waste, and you don’t improve our communities in any way at all.”

Our mining reporter Francesca Fionda has the details.


This week in The Narwhal

Everything you need to know about the push to mine Ontario’s Ring of Fire
By Emma McIntosh
The Ontario government wants the Ring of Fire to be a mining hub. But there are big questions about the environment, the cost and First Nations consent that need to be answered.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hosted a Peace and Unity gathering. RCMP made arrests
By Matt Simmons
Indigenous leaders, conservation organizations, politicians and other delegates invited by the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs witnessed the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group arrest a land defender during a major gathering on the territory.


What we’re reading

In a Tent City During the Hottest Week of the Year
When you’re confused about Mount Polley mine re-opening before reading our newsletter. Tell your friends to sign up for explainers delivered straight to their inboxes.
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