Cowichan First Nations that flooded meets Indigenous Services Minister

WatchCanada's Indigenous Affairs Minister says he wanted to meet the Cowichan First Nations and learn about the flooding just over a month ago.

Canada’s Indigenous Services Minister met with two Cowichan Valley First Nations today following heavy flooding last month.

On the agenda was how the federal government could support First Nations and what could be done to prevent future flooding.

Cowichan Tribes’ Chief William “Chip” Seymour toured Minister Marc Miller by some of the flood mitigation projects he’d like the government to help fund following the worst flooding in nearly 60 years.

“We had 117 homes impacted by this flood so it was very bad for us,” said Seymour.

On Feb. 1, after heavy rains and a high tide, the Cowichan River spilled its banks.

Tzouhalem Road looked like part of the river and 20 per cent of the First Nation’s homes flooded.

“I was glad to hear that a lot of them just had to be cleaned and sanitized,” said Seymour.

But extensive damage was done.

The total dollar figure has yet to be determined.

It’s left the First Nation looking for funding both for damages and for future projects to help prevent it from happening again.

“That’s why it’s important for me to sit with the minister and see what the feds can kick into this,” said Seymour.

While there were no promises of funding, Miller was sympathetic to the Cowichan Tribe’s concerns.

“To be here and to be able to speak to the communities that have experienced it as well as the work that’s being done to prevent it and the infrastructure resources that needs to be invested into making sure communities are equipped to deal with it is very important to me,” said Miller.

Miller said flooding events like the one last month are happening more frequently with climate change.

Seymour says the challenge for building much needed new homes is that the entire First Nation is on flood plains.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Seymour.

“The government put us on the reserves. They set reserve boundaries for us and the majority of the band land is on the reserve.”

Seymour says it makes building new homes much more expensive as homes need to built above the flood level, with water and sewer hookups.

Following the meeting with Cowichan Tribes, Miller also met with the Halalt First Nation that also experienced severe flooding.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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