Meadow Lake Tribal Chief and Chief of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan respond to fire protection concerns

MEADOW LAKE, SASKATCHEWAN–(Marketwired – Feb. 20, 2015) – Tribal Chief Eric Sylvestre Meadow Lake Tribal Council expressed condolences to the family of the young children who died as a result of a house fire on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation February 17.

“It is time now to let the community grieve and support the family and further, I urge the media to respect the privacy of the community as they grieve,” said Chief Richard Ben of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. In addition, Chief Ben states that after the grieving process, the Chief and council will work to address the issue of fire protection services in the community in collaboration with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

This tragic event has raised concerns regarding fire protection services for all of the First Nations affiliated with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC).

In a meeting with a senior official of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) held February 19, 2015 Chief Sylvestre requested that department work with the Tribal Council so that all parties can be assured that the MLTC communities either have the infrastructure and capacity in place or operative service agreements to effectively respond to reserve fires.

Tribal Chief Sylvestre has asked the Technical Services Unit of MLTC to assess the current readiness and capacity of the communities to respond to emergency calls related to fires. “Once the review is completed we will be collaborating with AANDC to ensure that fire services are operationally in place.”

Chief Sylvestre stated that, “Now is not the time to argue about funding and placing of blame. It is important to ensure that Meadow Lake First Nations have fire protection services in place at the First Nations level or via operative Service Agreements with nearby non-Aboriginal Communities to respond to reserve fire based emergencies.”

Currently, one of the MLTC communities, Flying Dust First Nation has a Service Agreement with the City of Meadow Lake. A more northern First Nation, English River First Nation, is currently engaged on a construction project to build a new fire hall and acquire a new fire truck cost-shared with AANDC. “Our First Nations, like other small communities operate their fire protection services on a voluntary basis,” said the Tribal Chief.

Tribal Chief Sylvestre is aware of initiatives being implemented on Saskatchewan First Nations to assure all houses are provided with directly wired smoke detectors and with fire extinguishers. “These types of initiatives are positive steps in providing safe housing for our children.”

MLTC would be interested in participating on initiatives that increase the safety of our members, said Tribal Chief Sylvestre. “The more in home safety measures that are provided will help home owners to respond to fires and ensure lives are saved.”

Chief Richard Ben, Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, and the Tribal Chief will be meeting with the Regional Director General of AANDC next week according to the Tribal Chief. “We hope to discuss the issue and collaborate on what we can do individually and collectively to ensure the safety of our community members,” said Tribal Chief Sylvestre.

“I wish to reiterate that at the request of the Chief and Council, the media respect the privacy and allow the family and community to heal,” said Tribal Chief Sylvestre.

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