Forest Fire Evacuation Continues Up to 7000 Likely

Shawn Atleo
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo
THUNDER BAY – The fire situation across Northwestern Ontario remains severe. There were twenty new fires reported since yesterday. Across the province the current scope of the area covered by fires is 300,000 hectares. This is a major increase in the scope of fires and sets a new record. Evacuations of communities in the North continue. It is expected that up to 7000 people will be evacuated out of their home communities. There will be people sent, mostly through Thunder Bay to London, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Wawa, Greenstone and other communities with hundreds also expected to stay in Thunder Bay.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse support the calls for immediate mobilization of resources by all levels of government for the safe evacuation of First Nation communities impacted by forest fires in northwestern Ontario, adding that capacity needs at the community level must be addressed to deal with immediate and long-term emergency response needs.

“The safety and security of First Nation citizens and communities is of primary concern and our thoughts and prayers are with the many people affected by the devastating fires in northwestern Ontario, particularly in Nishnawbe Aski territory,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo speaking today from Vancouver, where he’s meeting with provincial and territorial leaders at a meeting of the Council of the Federation.

“Too many of our people are already vulnerable and when disasters or emergencies strike, we are hit hardest. The reality is that First Nation citizens and communities are affected by these emergency events to a greater extent because of remoteness, lack of critical security infrastructure, resources and capacity. We need action on a number of fronts, including efforts by all governments to work with First Nations on effective coordination and delivery of emergency services on the short and long term. I am calling for immediate action by the federal government and also raising this issue with premiers and territorial leaders at our meeting today.”

Yesterday, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy called for the mobilization of provincial and federal resources to ensure the safe evacuation of impacted NAN members and communities. As of this afternoon, 19 NAN communities were on high alert, some of which have already been evacuated, including about 2,500 people from Sandy Lake First Nation and 265 from Kingfisher Lake First Nation. Currently First Nation citizens from NAN territory are being housed in Thunder Bay and the surrounding region, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

“This situation demonstrates the difficulties associated with being a First Nation citizen and living in a remote location,” said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. “What is needed right now is appropriate financial resourcing, for emergency assistance, by the province and the federal government that takes into account the realities and extraordinary challenges of living in the north. This is in addition to a swift response for calls to evacuate citizens.”

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