Ongoing health crisis: Peguis First Nation declares state of emergency

Peguis First Nation declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as it continues to grapple with ongoing issues stemming from flooding that occurred in the spring of 2022. Speaking in the Peguis Council Chambers, Chief Stan Bird told those in attendance the declaration was being made because the damage of the floods hasn’t only been physical.

“This declaration is driven by a severe crisis that affects not just our lands and homes, but the very spirit and mental well-being of our people,” Chief Bird explained. “The scars left by these waters are not visible only on buildings, but are evident in the eyes and hearts of our people.”

People who still can’t return home. Between flooding that occurred in 2014, 2017 and 2022, a total of 784 people have been unable to return home, mainly due to the fact that there is still a significant lack of housing in the community.

Story continues below advertisement

That inability to return home has led the local wellness team to report a significant decline in overall mental health of residents, with Chief Bird noting, “A sharp increase in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse among all age groups.”

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

This has caused the Peguis Wellness Team to shift its focus, from a more proactive therapeutic model to one driven primarily by crisis intervention.

Chief Bird expressed frustration with other levels of government, citing a lack of motivated action, arguing that when people are displaced globally the government tends to act more swiftly.

More on Canada

“Canada prides itself on bringing those people here,” said Chief Bird. “It’s called a humanitarian crisis, and that’s what’s been happening in our community, but we’re ignored.”

However, when government agencies do try and assist, they use what Peguis Wellness Team supervisor Patrician Caribou calls, “Systemic colonial rules,” which prevent her team from doing the work that needs to be done.

“Whatever kind of work that’s being done in the community, then they don’t recognize that. They only want to recognize certain kinds of counselling and certain kinds of individuals that do the work,” Caribou said.

“If we have a mental health therapist coming into the community, they have very strict guidelines, how they do their work and how they administer that program.”

Story continues below advertisement

Caribou would prefer Indigenous Services Canada provide them with the resources they need and leave the healing to those who reside within the community.

“The answer is to allow Peguis to do what they see fit,” states Caribou. “Peguis has their own answer for all mental health, physical health, the whole holistic healing of the community.”

Global News reached out to Indigenous Services Canada for a response but has yet to hear back. This all comes less than a week after Peguis First Nation filed a $1-billion claim for flood damages against all levels of government, including the RMs of Fisher and Bifrost.

None of the allegations made in the claim have been proven in court.

Click to play video: 'Peguis First Nation files $1 billion claim against all levels of government over devastating 2022 flood'

Peguis First Nation files $1 billion claim against all levels of government over devastating 2022 flood

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.