PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — A group of Indigenous families living in social housing say the Manitoba government is threatening to evict them at the end of the month.
About 100 members of the Waterhen First Nation have been living in Portage la Prairie since leaving the reserve following a dispute in 1996.
Bernadette Chartrand, 64, said she and her husband have serious health problems and don’t know what they will do if Sheriffs force them from their home.
“I don’t feel good at all. Kind of worried,” Chartrand said Monday. “I’ll probably live in my husband’s car.”
A Manitoba government spokesman said the tenants have not been paying rent.
“Ideally, all tenants are treated equitably and fairly,” said a spokesman for Manitoba Housing.
“A handful of tenants refusing to pay rent for 20 years is not fair for the thousands of other tenants of Manitoba Housing who do pay rent.”
People in the community west of Winnipeg say 16 families have received eviction notices.
Manitoba Housing says the enforcement of the eviction orders must be executed by Aug. 28.
Justine Gabriel was a child in 1996 when she had to leave the reserve 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
She still remembers the ordeal and worries what this next move will do to her daughter.
“She’s just four and now, she’s going to be traumatized by this,” Gabriel said.
“It’s a new generation we’re bringing up into this, and this is the second time it’s going to happen.”
Donna Gabriel has lived in her Manitoba Housing unit since the displacement in 1996 and is a spokeswoman for the affected families.
She said people never wanted to live in Portage la Prairie and the arrangement was supposed to be temporary.
Gabriel said efforts to relocate her people stalled with federal and provincial governments.
She said they shouldn’t have to pay rent.
“It’s making us look terrible and not focusing on the real issues of the removal and what has happened in the past 20 years,” said Gabriel.
Gabriel said the families want a long-term solution and for the federal government to intervene.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said it’s arranging a meeting with Gabriel and is encouraging the families to work with Manitoba Housing to find a resolution.
The name of the band north of Winnipeg has since changed to the Skownan First Nation.