THUNDER BAY – Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says a Pikangikum house fire tragedy, which claimed the lives of six adults and three children, is the direct result of chronic poverty and third world living conditions.
“On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario I want to pass along our condolences to the family and community of Pikangikum,” said Ontario Regional Chief Day. “Our people are living in substandard living conditions and this is the result: a fire that claimed the life of seven people, three of them children. We need to bring our communities into the 21st century. Substandard is not a standard that we can live with any longer.”
Ontario Provincial Police officials and the Office of the Fire Marshall are investigating the cause of a residential fire on Tuesday evening. OPP have confirmed multiple fatalities, with several people still unaccounted for.
There are no firefighting services in Pikangikum and 95 per cent of the homes do not have running water. “There must be an immediate coroner’s inquest based upon the social, economic, and cultural factors that led to this tragedy,” said Regional Chief Day.
People living on a First Nations reserve in Canada are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people in the rest of Canada, according to a 2010 federal study on fire safety on reserves.
In 2010, the federal government devised a five-year strategy to improve on-reserve fire protection, prevention, and suppression. The report identified a number of recommendations to improve fire safety on reserves including analyzing funding resources and enhancing fire safety education in First Nation communities.
Ontario Regional Chief Day of the Assembly of First Nations and head of the assembly’s health committee, said the state of aboriginal health is a crisis that must be confronted by all Canadians.
In September of 2015, Ontario Regional Chief Day issued a Call to Action, calling the state of health for First Nations people in Canada deplorable and unconscionable.
“Poverty and the state of our communities have been ignored and is literally a quiet crisis, killing our people and it must end now.”