Times Associate Editor
Two years after the 2013 catastrophic floods ripped through Alberta, devastated former resort community Hidden Valley residents remain in the lurch with little assistance or compensation for the loss of their homes and community, from the provincial government, Siksika Band, or insurance companies.
While the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) dished out over $90 million to Siksika Nation - whose land the community was built and leased on - the area remains condemned and deemed unfit for human habitation.
With Hidden Valley's $44 million in residential property losses, Alberta's Disaster Recovery Program only provides financial assistance for uninsurable loss and damages on primary residences – not applicable to secondary or seasonal homes.
To date, only an estimated 20 per cent of the residences have received some form of compensation. While a majority of the properties were considered secondary homes, community members said most of the residents lived in Hidden Valley for more than six months out of the year.
Although 32 residences have received DRP funding, the remaining 270 are still waiting.
"The people who did not own any other property in Canada and go south to the States every year were given DRP money, and those who live in Alberta and support our economy were deemed secondary residence or vacation residence and didn't qualify," said Sharin Mackie, spokesperson for the Hidden Valley Disaster Relief Committee and former resident.
"The PC government compensated secondary residents in High River and Lac Des Arcs. They are covering the Kananaskis Golf Course and they even covered them for lost wages, but they haven't helped us. They paid $33 million for 11 homes in Calgary off the Elbow River. So they did pick and choose. We're hoping that the new government will be an awful lot more fair."
Mackie, who added that Hidden Valley was a permanent community for 39 years, said community members had to wait for the whole Siksika Nation to be pumped out before they were allowed back into the area, leaving Hidden Valley under water for 20 days. She added power and water services were never turned back on - making it hard to clean - while anything salvageable was either destroyed or covered in mould.
According to Mackie, over 50 per cent of the Hidden Valley population had senior status and had sunk their life savings into their lost homes. Yet, with the current change in government, and changes within the Siksika Band, the committee remains optimistic.
"Our government shares many of the frustrations that people have had with the previous government's response to this disaster," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta Deron Bilous. "We are currently reviewing the Disaster Recovery Program and the lessons learned from 2013, so we can improve the program going forward. We will be working with affected residents to resolve outstanding claims, and we are committed to ensuring that people and communities receive the amount for which they are eligible."
Since the floods, the 300 residences, or nearly 1,500 community members, were forced to move to small communities within Alberta, BC, and even the United States. While many of them were seasonal, there was misconception that those residences were in possession of two homes. The Canadian Red Cross also organized a reunion for the community members earlier this year in Calgary.
"Some insurance companies have paid up, and we're still working with others to have them come forward and do the same thing," said former primary resident Dick Burgis, who is also still awaiting some compensation.
"There have been rumours that they're working away at trying to clean some stuff up, but nothing has been cleaned up yet. It's an ongoing battle we're trying to recover some dollars from Siksika because we paid the rent for the whole year, so we're trying to get that back and of course we're working with the insurance companies to come up with a compromise."
Despite rumours of improvements to the area, Municipal Affairs was unable to provide information regarding their financial assistance to the area at this time.
The Hidden Valley Disaster Relief Committee sought legal advice in regards to insurance matters, and will continue their efforts to make sure the Hidden Valley residents receive compensation for their losses.