Winnipeg hotels, convention centre filling up as people still homeless after snow storm

Jolene Banning
Cots have been set up in a downtown convention centre in Winnipeg, and additional lodging has been secured at various hotels after a massive winter storm hit the province leaving roughly 13,000 people without power and forcing thousands more from six First Nations.

“As of early this morning we have registered 5,700 evacuees,” said Jason Small, spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross who is organizing the evacuation.

“The vast majority of those are staying with friends and family or hotels. We have one shelter set up at the RBC convention centre and last night we had about 120 people staying there.”

Six First Nations have declared a state of emergency.

Not everyone is feeling support during this early season storm that also had the premier declare a state of emergency.

Amy hunter is a mother to ten from the Pinaymootang First Nation three hours north of Winnipeg.

She said she didn’t get much when it was time to leave.

“We actually had a hydro pole block us in our driveway so we had to shovel and dig our way out and load all our kids into one vehicle,” she said.

She’s not the only one with concerns about how the evacuation efforts have gone down.

Chief Cornell Mclean from Lake Manitoba First Nation is worried about some of his older band members.

“I said it yesterday that I was frustrated because my members were staying in a shelter which is unacceptable because they’re elders,” said Cornell.

“They should be in hotel rooms where they’re comfortable.”

Manitoba Hydro says about 13,000 customers remain without power six days after a snowstorm started pummeling the province.

Spokesman Bruce Owen says crews need to rebuild much of the transmission system.

A massive blast of heavy, wet snow brought down trees, power lines and other infrastructure.

The area around Portage la Prairie was the hardest hit.

Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency early Sunday.

Leaders from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Southern Chiefs Organization issues a statement about how some evacuees are experiencing racism while in Winnipeg.

“Reports have been shared about evacuees from various locations across Manitoba, including online, about how they have encountered racism when purchasing fuel at gas stations, buying food, emergency supplies, and purchasing generators. Hotels have turned away evacuees when there are obvious vacancies, which leadership says is discriminatory and completely unacceptable,” said the statement.

According to the statement, evacuees are being directed to lodging in Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk and Dauphin.

“There are numerous reports of racist and unacceptable behavior from staff and management including disparaging remarks, prioritizing non-Indigenous customers, and in some instances, hotels shutting down pool access,” said the statement.

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