Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa is pleading with the provincial and federal governments to provide proper firefighting resources and training to First Nation communities across Canada.
“The people of Ontario want to help. Canadians want to help. It is time for the Ford government to listen and provide the firefighting resources needed in First Nations communities now,” said Mamakwa. “First Nations are asking for the same level of fire protection afforded to all Ontarians.”
Mamakwa’s message comes after a tragic house fire in Sandy Lake First Nation on the night of January 13, where three youth under the age of 10 passed away. On top of the already engulfed blaze, the community didn’t have access to proper firefighting resources.
“The deaths of three young children in a fire in Sandy Lake has devastated the community and has broken the hearts of people across the province and the country,” said Mamakwa. “We cannot allow this to happen again. There can be no more jurisdictional games played with the lives of First Nations children,” said Mamakwa.
Sandy Lake says a lack of adequate water lines and infrastructure prevented the use of fire hydrants, only one water truck was operational, and firefighters did not have the proper equipment to fight the blaze – like proper masks or filled oxygen tanks.
“Our volunteers did all they could with what they had. We should have the same level of support as anyone else in Canada. Lives are at stake,” wrote Sandy Lake Chief Delores Kakegamic.
“Right now, too many communities are relying on volunteers and insufficient equipment to fight fires because they do not have the funds and resources for paid firefighters and fire prevention services. The province must help protect families with fire safety action plans and ensure that all homes and infrastructure are safe,” adds Mamakwa.
Chief Kakegamic is now calling for adequate resources for fire and emergency services for all First Nation communities in Ontario, which has been supported by Mamakwa and the Matawa Chiefs Council – who represent 9 First Nation communities in the north.
“We echo and unequivocally support Chief Kakegamic’s call for adequate resources for fire and emergency services. Indigenous Peoples having a 10x likelihood of dying in a house fire than the rest of Canada is a statistic that is completely unacceptable,” said the Matawa Chiefs Council.
“If the government doesn’t act now, more tragedies will happen. How many children will we lose to preventable fires before this government takes action to save lives?” adds Mamakwa, who also serves as the NDP’s Indigenous and Treaty Relations Critic.
According to the Ontario Chief Coroner’s Table on Understanding Fire Deaths in Fire Nations, First Nations children aged 0 to 9 have a fire-related mortality rate that is 86 times higher than non-First Nations children in Ontario.