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Friday, July 11, 2014

Manitoba government threatens action against Lake St. Martin protesters

LAKE ST. MARTIN, Man. - A protest by fishers has brought work at the emergency channel on Lake St. Martin in Manitoba to a stop but now the province is threatening legal action.

Last week, work was started to open the channel but it stopped once protesters from various Interlake First Nations communities moved in and set up a blockade.

The fishers say sending the water and large amounts of debris into their traditional fishing territory through the Portage Diversion threatens their livelihood.

The province, however, says the channel needs to be opened to curb flooding.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton says the RCMP have been contacted and legal action is possible.

By blocking the opening of the channel, Ashton says the fishers are keeping lake levels higher than they should be.

"We need to protect Manitobans. We need to get that outlet to maximum capacity," said Ashton.

Right now, the province said that outlet is operating at 80 per cent capacity. Protesters said it's more like 30 per cent.

RCMP have already contacted Pinaymootang First Nation Councillor Derrick Gould, who is also a commercial fisherman and cattle rancher.

He said the fishermen are willing to sit down with governments to come up with a resolution that works for everyone, not just southerners.

If not, campers will remain at the site, he said.

"I told them at the meeting, if it means my life that has to be taken to protect my people, that's what I will do," said Gould.

The Lake St. Martin channel and protest camp are about 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

(CTV Winnipeg) -CP-

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