After the federal government paid nearly $2 million to destroy homes on a condemned, flood-ravaged Manitoba First Nations reserve slated for demolition, dozens of buildings were moved off the land and sold, CTV News has learned.
Three years ago, flooding forced hundreds of residents from their homes on Manitoba’s Lake St. Martin First Nation reserve.
The reserve was condemned, dozens of houses slated for demolition, and many residents have been living in hotels ever since.
Ottawa paid nearly $2 million to destroy the homes. But CTV has learned that as many as 40 of the buildings were lifted from their foundations, moved elsewhere and sold for about $20,000 each.
In some cases, the sold homes still contained their former residents’ belongings.
“Still all my stuff, everything in there,” said one resident, Noel Beardy. “All my contents, even my clothes — everything.”
After the 2011 flood, Beardy went back to the reserve regularly to check on his home. In February, the house had disappeared.
Beardy learned it had been moved out of Lake St. Martin on a flatbed. He tracked it down to a beach community 300 kilometres away, where the house is now being renovated to be sold as a cottage.
“That buyer told me he bought it from the Lake St. Martin chief,” Beardy said. “He admitted he bought it from Lake St. Martin chief, but he wouldn’t tell us how much and who pocketed the money.”
The buyer confirmed the same information to CTV News, but would not speak on camera.
When CTV’s Jill Macyshon reached Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair by phone and asked him if some homes were sold from the reserve, Sinclair replied: “Condemned homes, yes.”
“Condemned homes were sold?” Macyshon asked.
“No they weren’t sold. They were given away,” Sinclair said.
When pressed on the issue and asked how much money he made from selling the homes, Sinclair said he “didn’t make nothing.”
He later told CTV in a statement that he has the legal authority to sell damaged houses and that all monies were used to further clean up the reserve.
He said that about 84 homes on the reserve were demolished, but would not say how many were sold.
In a statement to CTV, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said the government is investigating the matter “and will forward any evidence of criminal wrongdoing to the appropriate policing authority.”
The cost of placing the flood evacuees in hotels for three years and paying for their food has ballooned to more than $86 million.