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Many reserve homes would be condemned if inspected: chief at inquest

Baby Errabella Harper died in a fire in a three-bedroom house with no running water on St. Theresa Point First Nation. RCMP handout / The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – The chief of a northern Manitoba reserve where a baby died in a house fire says his band can’t afford to have its homes inspected for hazards.

Chief David McDougall of St. Theresa Point First Nation told an inquest into the girl’s death that most of the reserve’s homes would be condemned if they were inspected.

READ MORE: 13 children among fatalities in 11 First Nations fires since 2006

Many homes still rely on wood stoves and others aren’t built to handle electrical heaters, he said.

The reserve doesn’t have the money to upgrade houses, so many people are afraid to have them inspected, McDougall said.

The inquest is examining a fire in St. Theresa Point in January 2011 that killed two-month-old Errabella Harper.

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READ MORE: No chance to extinguish reserve fire that killed baby, Mountie says

It’s also investigating a second fire about two months later in God’s Lake Narrows that killed Demus James and two of his grandchildren.

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