Sandy Bay First Nation sues province, feds over 2011 flood they call a 'man-made disaster'

A Manitoba First Nation is taking the federal and provincial governments to court over damages the lakeside community suffered during the "man-made disaster" that was the flood of 2011.

Sandy Bay First Nation filed a statement of claim with the Court of Queen's Bench last Tuesday stating the Manitoba government is shirking its financial responsibilities to the flood-ravaged community, located 130 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

The allegations in the statement of claim are unproven in court.

A provincial spokesperson said in a statement the Manitoba government is unable to comment as it hasn't been formally served with a statement of claim. CBC News requested comment from the federal government but did not immediately hear back. 

Residents were forced to leave in the spring of 2011 after high water levels on Lake Manitoba destroyed homes and washed out roads in Sandy Bay.

The suit claims the province not only failed to protect the First Nation, but was also "unjustly enriched" by the controlled flood spill in 2011. 

The Manitoba government intentionally breached a dike along the Assiniboine River near Portage la Prairie that spring to prevent flooding further downstream and closer to Winnipeg.

"Manitoba knew that in order to save southern Manitoba and its occupiers and residents and property owners from billions of dollars in substantial losses, it would choose to control the water regime within Manitoba in a way that caused significant amounts of water to be diverted from the the Assiniboine River into Lake Manitoba," court documents state.

The flood not only damaged homes and property, but also seriously harmed the "distinct and vibrant" Indigenous community that used to reside in the area, Sandy Bay officials state in court documents.

Neither the federal nor provincial government adequately consulted with Sandy Bay officials, the First Nation contends in the suit, adding both levels of government have also failed to appropriately compensate people in the community after the fact.

The community is suing for an unspecified amount.