Houses on Halalt land were severely impacted by flooding. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Houses on Halalt land were severely impacted by flooding. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Minister and Halalt First Nation chief consult on effects of recent flooding

Community heavily impacted with many damaged and uninhabitable homes

Flood mitigation and prevention topped the agenda for a meeting between the Honourable Marc Miller, federal minister of Indigenous Services, and Halalt First Nation Chief James Thomas, regarding the severe flooding that impacted the Halalt First Nation lands near Chemainus on Feb. 1.

The meeting was followed by a tour of the community so Miller could get the lay of the land and understand the impacts of the flooding on homes and infrastructure.

“These conversations are always ongoing,” said Miller. “It’s always important to get to the community and talk to leadership. That’s something I can take back to Ottawa.”

Halalt residents have become paranoid every time it rains — and with good reason, after flood waters literally engulfed the entire community in the early-morning hours of Feb. 1 and left some people with mere moments to get out of their homes.

Initially, all 41 families on the reserve were flooded out of their homes “due to the septic fields all failed because we couldn’t turn the water on,” pointed out Thomas.

Fourteen homes had flooded basements, forcing those occupants to take temporary residences in a hotel.

The flood waters actually receded quickly by noon Feb. 1, but the damage was done in most cases.

“There’s still 10 families out,” said Thomas. “They couldn’t get back into the basement of the places the were living in.”

It’s been a month since the floods, but the effects will surely linger for a long time to come.

“The community is providing ongoing support to the many families still out of their homes, thanks to the Building Back Better strategy,” noted Miller.

Building Back Better is an approach to post-disaster recovery that reduces vulnerability to future disasters and builds community resilience to address physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities and shocks.

Prevention was a key part of discussions between Miller and Thomas.

“We were able to see a good number of the homes that were impacted,” said Miller. “It’s a significant part of this community. They’re pretty resilient, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

“A little bit of water can do a lot of damage. In this case, a lot of water did a lot of damage.”

He intends to keep the lines of communication open to help.

“The disaster relief fund assistance is a huge relief for us,” said Thomas. “That assisted us with housing people.”

It’s been a double whammy of sorts for the Halalt community, going back to the windstorm of December 2018 that led to a prolonged power outage.

“We were all out for three days here,” noted Thomas. “The small artery roads were out for 14 days.”

“Another wake-up,” he added. “We were caught with our pants down again.”

That wake-up call, he conceded, also pertains to the federal and provincial governments in future flood prevention from better drainage and other measures.

“We don’t have a river flow metre or a siren,” Thomas indicated. “If it hits a level, we need to get out. These things aren’t in place. But that’s something we’re going to be looking at with the feds and the province.”

There are many issues he’s identified, including the abandoned E&N Rail line where there’s not enough drainage, and the depth of the water from one side to the other was considerable.

“The houses wouldn’t have flooded if the dike was finished all the way up to the Island Highway,” added Thomas.

Ironically, the Halalt First Nation has been in the process of hiring an emergency coordinator and the flooding will expedite the process of getting someone in place.

First Nationsflooding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Halalt First Nation Chief James Thomas greets Marc Miller, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, last Tuesday. (Photo submitted)

Halalt First Nation Chief James Thomas greets Marc Miller, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, last Tuesday. (Photo submitted)

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller during his visit with Halalt First Nation chief James Thomas last week. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller during his visit with Halalt First Nation chief James Thomas last week. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Halalt First Nation was heavily impacted by flooding. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Halalt First Nation was heavily impacted by flooding. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

A picture of Bug before the attack by the dogs on Nov. 17, 2020. (Submitted photo)
Three dogs almost kill cat in Miller Road area near Duncan

Efforts to catch the canines unsuccessful so far

Beautiful morning with the sun peaking through, as viewed from Thetis Island. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)
November characterized by a record high, no snow and plenty of rain in Chemainus region

Temperature almost hits the 20 degree Celsius mark on Nov. 4

Group wants to start a pilot program for regenerative farms in North Cowichan. (File photo)
Group looks to North Cowichan for farmland

Land could also be used for affordable housing

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Most Read