In response to the tragic house fire that claimed the lives of two toddlers on the Makwa Sahgiehcan First Nation, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has issued the following statement calling for a need for the Federal Government to take action;
Saskatoon SK – The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) extends sincere condolences to the families and the entire community of Makwa Sahgiehcan First Nation affected by the recent fire and tragic deaths of two children. The FSIN Executive stand in support of Makwa Sahgiehcan First Nation and offer prayers for the community at this difficult time.
“The families affected by this tragedy cannot be overlooked and the leadership must be allowed the time required to assist the families in need. Rather than using this tragedy as an opportunity to attack First Nations, the question should be – What has to be done to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future?” said FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat.
The federal government also bears responsibility for this tragedy by deliberately underfunding on-reserve emergency services. Makwa Sahgaiehcan, like other First Nations across the province, does not receive sufficient funding to cover even two fire calls per year from the municipal volunteer fire department. However, to avoid being held accountable, the government’s strategy is to suggest new legislation that places all the responsibility on First Nations. This approach is also being used to cover underfunding in other areas such as drinking water and housing.
“Legislation alone will not solve any of these problems. These services cost money. Unless there is a significant increase in funding, there is no way First Nations can meet any kind of fire safety codes and regulations. The federal government has to meet with First Nations immediately to begin finding solutions rather than unilaterally imposing legislation. We do not want to see any more lives lost” said Vice Chief Lerat.
Since the tragedy, much of the blame has been pointed at the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department, which refused to travel to the First Nation (only 10KMs away) to put out the fire when they received the call because of an unpaid debt of only $3,300-dollars.
In a recent article by CBC, Larry Heon, the volunteer fire chief rejected criticism directed at his department for not responding to the house fire that killed two toddlers.
In the article, he said, “”I spent 23 years in the military to protect people in this country,” he said. “And now to have this thrown back at me that we just let people die in my own country is very saddening to me.”
Heon said he received a 911 call from the reserve early Tuesday morning and did not respond to the scene.
“What went through my mind?” he said. “Protocol. I just thought about it and we do not respond to fires at Makwa Sahgaiehcan right at this present time.” (read more)
But regardless questions still linger; like why didn’t they at least make the effort to travel to the community? Why did the Mayor of Loon Lake keep sleeping after he got the call at 1:30 in the morning? Would this have happened if First Nations communities were adequately funded like their neighbouring municipalities here in Saskatchewan?
According to reports, five children have died in fires on Saskatchewan First Nations in 2014. With Tuesday’s deaths, that numbers brings the total to four deaths in 2015 and it is only February. RezX is following this story and will bring you more as it develops.
– RezX Magazine