THUNDER BAY – It is an issue which was raised repeatedly through the evacuations. In some Northern Ontario communities, evacuated as a result of smoke and fire, the power was out for days. Food stocks, including frozen foods were spoiled. The call for help started before the smoke was clearning. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy says immediate financial support is required for those NAN First Nations returning home following their evacuation due to forest fires burning across Northwestern Ontario.
The call for support comes after a Sandy Lake First Nation family, who was forced to evacuate, returned home this past weekend to find their house completely destroyed by fire.
“Immediate financial support is required from both the provincial and federal governments to replace the loss by the family in Sandy Lake First Nation. It was challenging enough for that family, along with others, to evacuate their home communities, leaving their personal belongings behind for safety. Now, that family is coming home to nothing and the community does not have the resources to replace what they have lost,” said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy.
While thousands of evacuees are returning to their communities this week, many who experienced power outages have been forced to restock their food supply from their freezers and refrigerators. Beardy says there must be support to restore and restock traditional and non-traditional foods. Fish and wild game which are a staple part of the diet of the communities, may now be displaced or have perished in the traditional trapping, hunting and fishing grounds.
In addition, forest fires typically cause drastic changes to water quality, wild life habitats and can contribute to toxic conditions in the air and water. This will lead to serious reductions in fish populations, and will add further complications to the already deficient drinking water systems in the North.
Beardy is calling on both the Province of Ontario and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to assist the communities in returning to their homes safely and with stocked food and personal supplies. “This was not a choice. The families did not choose to leave their homes. It was something they needed to do to ensure their safety and well-being. The Governments of both Canada and Ontario must have a short-term plan in place to assist these families who have suffered a loss in food supplies and a long-term plan in place to determine how best to address the aftermath.”