Berens River Elder transferred from broken-down home to Winnipeg

Marva George of Berens River First Nation in Manitoba says it took a Facebook post to go viral to get help with her poor living conditions that worsened in the recent cold weather.

The post, which has nearly 800 shares, reveals broken baseboard heating and sewage backing up into the only bathtub and toilet in her house on reserve.

“Chief and councillors, I need somebody to come and look at my house,” George can be heard saying in a Facebook video. “I use the stove to heat up the house.”

George said she believes frozen pipes caused the sewage to back up.

After multiple pleas for help with her home, Jordan’s Principle relocated her and her grandchildren to a wellness centre in Winnipeg, where George met with APTN News for an interview.

“I needed people to hear me out that I needed help with the condition of my house,” she said. “We need to live in a better environment when we have kids and when we have health problems. We don’t deserve to live like that in our communities.”

Berens River Elder
A photo of the bathtub in Elder Marva George’s home in Berens River was just one of several posted to Facebook.

According to George, her house has been falling apart for years.

But three weeks ago, sewage began backing up through her pipes leaving her household of eight without a functioning washroom and an unbearable smell.

“I had to live the old ways. I had to get a pail for them to use the washroom. I told my kids this is what we did long ago before we had running water,” she said.

To complicate things further, George is confined to a wheelchair.

She had her leg amputated in early 2023 and undergoes dialysis in her home regularly. She told APTN dialysis is full in Winnipeg and she needs to travel 45 minutes north to Selkirk, Man., to continue treatment.

Three times

A Statistics Canada report shows Indigenous People are three times more likely to live in a home in need of major repairs than the non-Indigenous population,

George said there’s a lack of housing in her community, causing crowded homes of “probably 10 to 15 people in a house.”

She said she would like to see leadership across the country to have regular visits with its members to keep tabs on housing conditions.

Berens River chief and council didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

George isn’t sure how long she and her grandchildren will be away from home, but hopes to return to a working washroom and proper heating to get through the rest of winter.

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