Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler Frustrated Over Wildfire Response by Ontario

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Wildfire Update

Thunder Bay – NEWS – Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister Greg Rickford are in Thunder Bay briefly today. The Premier and senior Minister are thanking firefighters at the Firebase on Arthur Street in Thunder Bay this morning, before a stop at the Valhalla Inn to visit with fire evacuees.

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler states, “I look forward to today’s visit by Premier Ford so he can hear first-hand the growing frustration of our members who have been forced from their homes with little or no support. I will remind the Premier that saying they are ‘throwing everything they have’ at the situation only means the resources the province has at hand, which are simply not enough”.

“Pikangikum is waiting to evacuate 1,300 people and there is nowhere to accommodate them, and no one to care for them. If another community must evacuate there will be nowhere for them to go either. We appreciate that host communities are trying to do their best, but the continued failure to respond with every possible resource makes us question if this government understands, or even cares, about the threat to First Nations.”

Pikangikum is telling their residents it is not safe to return home yet.

NAN started calling on the Ford government to declare a State of Emergency on July 12, 2021, to assist remote First Nations communities threatened by fire.

NAN says that declaring a State of Emergency would eliminate barriers and give the province the authority to access more accommodations, resources and supports that are desperately needed. This includes wraparound supports to help evacuees while they are away from their homes, including access to health care and mental health services.

NAN in a statement to media comments that “Members of one First Nation, who have been staying in a school gymnasium without adequate washrooms or showers are choosing to risk the return home rather than remain in these conditions. Some remote communities have been left without health care and policing, as federal and provincial staff have been pulled from some communities”.

During the worst fire season in a decade, there is potential for large-scale evacuation of thousands of NAN community members, possibly at the same time if the weather unfolds as predicted. Up to 6,000 residents may need to leave their communities, leaving the province short up to 1,500 beds.

Nearly 3,200 people from five NAN First Nations communities have been evacuated. Deer Lake and Poplar Hill are fully evacuated, while Pikangikum, Cat Lake, and North Spirit Lake are partially evacuated. Bearskin Lake, Sachigo Lake, Keewaywin, and Sandy Lake are on high alert. Evacuees are at host communities in Thunder Bay, Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Cornwall, Timmins, Sudbury, Sioux Lookout, Sault St. Marie, and the Peel Region.