A multi-million dollar flood settlement has stalled after some evacuees claim people are making false claims to get money they don’t deserve, APTN News has learned.
Lawyer Sabrina Lombardi said a Court of Queen’s Bench judge will be asked later this month to reopen the application process for compensation for personal property.
The step is needed to determine who is a real claimant and who is not, Lombardi confirmed in a telephone interview from McKenzie Lake law firm in Toronto.
“We will tell the court we hoped the payments would be starting to flow by now but we’ve had this hiccup,” she explained.
“The class members were very concerned that…there were people…that maybe either weren’t proper members of the four First Nations or weren’t really ever residing on reserve.”
The $90-million settlement won from the Manitoba and federal governments was to be distributed by the end of 2018 but now Lombardi said that won’t happen until the spring of 2019.
“It’s not necessarily true that everybody that put forward a claim is eligible,” she said.
“The two criteria they had to show was membership in one of the four First Nations and the fact that they resided in Manitoba in 2011.”
The delay affects up to 7,000 people from Pinaymootang (Fairford), Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River and Lake St. Martin, she said.
People in those communities had their lives disrupted – and some remain in limbo – after the Manitoba government diverted floodwater to spare more serious damage in the nearby capital of Winnipeg.
Area farmland and lakefront cottages were also destroyed.
Flood victims sued the provincial and federal governments for damages after compensation was denied.
The settlement was approved by a judge in January 2018 and applies to personal belongings – not communal property like housing, infrastructure and land.
Compensation for those larger community losses is still being discussed.
“Until we can determine who is, in fact, eligible to receive the money we obviously can’t dole it out,” Lombardi added, “and so we’re going back to the court.
“There’s a large number of people whose claims aren’t complete enough to make a determination on.”
She said a judge will be asked to approve the move that will ask claimants to re-submit claim forms and supporting documents.
Eligible adults would receive “disruption payments” of between $42,000 and $67,000 while children would get 10 per cent of that.
Still, being asked to wait longer is more hardship for flood victims, said Grant Louis of Little Saskatchewan.
“People are still affected by this flood,” he said, listing problems like “sickness, poverty, depression, loneliness and addiction.
“Low-income families are stressing and these payments would really help out.”
Lombardi didn’t know how many claims were fake but said claimants would see more money in the end because of interest accruing on the money in the meantime.