Prince Albert Grand Council calls for change in wildfire management

One of the many wildfires in Saskatchewan. Courtesy:

First Nations leaders are again calling for the Saskatchewan government to address wildfires and improve Indigenous firefighting capacity.

The Prince Albert Grand Council said it wants to see the implementation of the recommendations within From the Ashes: Reimagining Fire Safety and Emergency Management in Indigenous Communities as well as the 2018 report from the PAGC Wildfire Task Force.

Click to play video: 'Federal government preparing for 2023 summer fire season'
Federal government preparing for 2023 summer fire season

Recommendations in these reports highlight that more funding and training are needed for preparedness, First Nations need to be included in coordination activities, evacuations need improvement, and more needs to be done for recovery.

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“Our histories, traditions, and livelihoods are deeply entwined with the forest, and its health directly impacts the health of our communities, the province and the country as a whole. It is not just about losing trees, it is about losing a vibrant ecosystem that supports a multitude of species, our community, and our way of life,” said Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who presented to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs in 2017.

Click to play video: '‘I was in tears, packing, watching the fire a block away from my home’: La Loche resident reflects on fire evacuation order'
‘I was in tears, packing, watching the fire a block away from my home’: La Loche resident reflects on fire evacuation order

“Today’s fires are different — they are fuelled by a shifting climate that burn with an intense heat and spread too quickly. These are not the cleansing fires of the past that rejuvenated the land and encouraged new growth. These fires, unlike in the past, are depriving the forest of the opportunity to regrow as it used to.”

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The PAGC said more inclusion is needed in the province’s wildfire management strategy.

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“We have been impacted disproportionately by wildfires, and it is critical that we address these challenges proactively. By doing so, we can empower Indigenous communities, protect our lands, and build resilience against future wildfire events,” said PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte.

Hardlotte said this year’s fires have been the worst yet, and have put communities in danger.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) sent a statement in response.

It said the SPSA has been working closely with First Nations communities, noting changes have been implemented based off PAGC Task Force recommendations.

“First Nations Band Councils remain responsible for managing fire protection and emergency response services on reserve. The SPSA is aware that some communities, such as small towns and First Nations, have unique needs. When an emergency happens, any First Nation community can contact the Public Safety Agency at 1-800-667-9660 to request assistance. Prior to an emergency, the SPSA works with Indigenous communities to increase their resilience against natural disasters, such as by managing vegetation and wildfire fuel and by improving emergency preparedness plans,” read the statement.

SPSA said it added more Indigenous contract crews to support the wildfire response capacity this year as well.

“The SPSA assists First Nation communities and Tribal Councils year-round in developing the fire services needed for their communities, which includes involving them in initiatives like the recent Transportation Rescue Extrication program.”


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