MP ASHTON & MLA'S LINDSEY & LATHLIN DEMAND EXPLANATION FOR DELAYS EVACUATING LITTLE GRAND RAPIDS & PAUINGASSI

Minister Philpott – Indigenous Services Canada

Confederation Building, Suite 162

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

 

Minister Goodale

Centre Block Suite: 515S

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

 

Minister Clarke – Minister of Indigenous and Northern relations

Room 301 Legislative Building

Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8

 

Minister Shuler – Minister of Infrastructure

Room 203 Legislative Building

450 Broadway

Winnipeg, MB R3C 0V8

 

Dear Minister Philpott, Minister Goodale, Minister Clarke and Minister Shuler

We are writing you as representatives of northern Manitoba to express our profound disappointment and to request an explanation regarding the delays evacuating both Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi following forest fires across Northern Manitoba.

As representatives of northern Manitoba, we are concerned the delays experienced may be repeated as the prospect of a dangerous forest fire season lies ahead. In our view, what occurred this past week was unacceptable and cannot be repeated.

Especially concerning is the confusion surrounding the evacuation and the refusal to accept responsibility for the delays in evacuating the residents of Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi. The immediate response was for Indigenous Services Canada to refuse to accept responsibility and take a leadership role and claim that a delay in evacuation was because no one in a leadership position had contacted Indigenous Services Canada. The province claimed that it had tried to get a hold of the Chief and Council Monday night, but no one responded.

It is important to recognize, as reported by the CBC , that Chief Raymond Keeper put in a request for evacuation Monday evening before 7pm. At 11:47 pm, he received a response by text saying that the fires hadn’t moved close enough to warrant an evacuation but things would be reassessed the following morning.

 We now know that evacuation was necessary. Clearly First Nations leadership was ignored which had the potential to threaten the health and wellbeing of the residents of these communities. These breakdowns cannot be repeated.

We would like an official explanation for the following:

  • Was information regarding communication between the Chief and Government officials shared with relevant officials in a timely fashion?
  • Indigenous Services Canada claims they hadn’t been contacted until Tuesday evening - was this a breakdown in communication among officials? What can be done to ensure these types of miscommunications don’t happen for future evacuations?
  • On what basis did Manitoba Sustainable Development advise that evacuation wasn’t initially warranted – which officials made these determinations and at what date and time?

We are seeking assurances that material support will be provided to residents affected by the fires once they return home including replacing the homes that have been destroyed by the fire.

What’s more, we are seeking clarification regarding any changes the respective levels of government plan to make to ensure proper disaster reaction protocols are followed in the future. Recent history has demonstrated that the current system to analyze and identify evacuations doesn’t work.

 First Nations must be trusted in their calls for help and cooperation. Peoples’ lives cannot be put at risk as they were this past week. True reconciliation must be based on trust every step of the way including and perhaps especially when it’s a question of basic safety.

We look forward to your prompt reply.

 

Niki Ashton – MP Churchill - Keewatinook Aski

Tom Lindsey – MLA Flin Flon

 Amanda Lathlin MLA – The Pas