05/03/2012 10:56 EDT | Updated 07/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Native flood evacuees must re-register for benefits

All of Manitoba's First Nations flood evacuees will have to register again for federal flood benefits, with strict rules being imposed to prevent fraudulent claims.

All 2,400 of the province's First Nations flood evacuees, who have been out of their home communities since last spring's major floods, will have to fill out a comprehensive new benefits form.

The form from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Department asks if claimants were living on reserve at the time of the flood, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

The new forms come after the department deemed about 170 members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation ineligible for flood benefits that they had been receiving for the past year.

Lake St. Martin Chief Adrian Sinclair said the federal government should have had stricter controls of flood claims from day one.

"Now they're trying to justify it by getting them to re-register," Sinclair said Wednesday.

Sinclair added that it's not fair for Ottawa to recover flood benefit overpayments from his First Nation.

"It's the department's fault, not the First Nation," he said.

Firefighters group also blamed

Sinclair also blamed the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF), the group handling First Nations flood claims in the province.

"Putting people on list that were ineligible — the MANFF co-ordinators were the culprits here," he said.

Officials with MANFF said they are merely service providers. The group will be responsible for ensuring all evacuees re-register for benefits.

The provincial government is not reviewing non-First Nations flood claims, with officials saying strict controls have always been in place.

The Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Department did not answer questions from CBC News about why it did not screen First Nations flood evacuees from the start.

In an email Thursday, a department spokesperson said it's continuing to work with First Nations and the provincial government towards getting the evacuees back to their home reserves as soon as it's safe to do so.