THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has issued the following statement as Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Rodney McKay has called for an evacuation due to the threat of flooding due to an ice jam along the Severn River downstream from the remote community:
“Chief and Council have determined that the situation in their community is too perilous to wait any longer. We support their request to evacuate for the safety of their members, especially the young and elderly. We have assured leadership that the situation is being closely monitored and we will do everything possible to ensure that the necessary supports are in place for everyone who leaves the community. Being evacuated is a difficult experience and we are confident that evacuees will be well cared for in their host communities. We ask those communities to welcome them with friendship and compassion.”
Vulnerable community members will be flown to host communities in the first phase of the evacuation. Sioux Lookout is expected to receive 125 evacuees between Wednesday and Thursday.
The City of Thunder Bay will receive approximately 180 people over the next few days. Approximately 350 people will be evacuated in total, as some community members will remain in Bearskin Lake to protect vital infrastructure.
The road between the airport and community is covered by flood water. An evacuation plan is being developed that will use helicopters to transport isolated community members to the airport where they will be transported to host communities by plane.
Bearskin Lake First Nation is located on Michikan Lake approximately 450 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, accessible only by air and a seasonal winter road. The OjiCree community has a membership of approximately 1,000, with an on-reserve population of approximately 500.