By Lisa Saunders

For Virginia Monias, 61, a member of Garden Hill First Nation, it was Manitoba's changing winds that forced her out of her home.

"The smoke was coming from the south, but they were afraid the smoke would come from the west and hit Garden Hill. They were prepared for it. That's why we came to Winnipeg," said Monias, who was evacuated on September 2.

Virginia Monias and her family after fleeing their homeMonias and her family boarded a boat that took them from the community to Garden Hill’s island airport, eventually travelling south to safety. On Friday, Monias was staying at the Canadian Red Cross temporary shelter at the Winnipeg Soccer North centre with her daughter and six grandchildren. Monias moved over to the complex after the Red Cross' other shelter, at the RBC Convention Centre, closed. 

"We're just mingling," she said, with a laugh, about spending time in the shelter.

During the day, Monias keeps herself busy by working at the nearby command post for Kitiganwacheeng Health Services, the local health centre in Garden Hill which now has a temporary base near the Leila shelter. Kitiganwacheeng is the northern agency that employs Monias as a Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program counsellor in Garden Hill. 

"I work during the day at the command centre. I don't really have time to be with my daughter and grandchildren, but when I finish at night time, I'm with them and we sleep together in the same area."
Monias says things have been going well at the shelter, with her grandkids keeping occupied by the on-site play centre and TV area. Despite some of the challenges of staying in a shelter, Monias takes it all in stride. 

"The thought is that we're safe. Being safe here is the main thing."

Monias also says the Red Cross volunteers have been very helpful and friendly. “I have no complaints,” she said with a chuckle.

Monias and her family, along with all other evacuees, were eventually moved out of the shelter to hotel rooms.