The leader of an organization representing 49 First Nations says he is mourning after two people died in a house fire in a remote northern Ontario Cree community.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says in a statement three other people managed to escape the blaze that erupted Thursday evening on Weenusk First Nation, in Peawanuck, Ont., and are being treated for their injuries.
Nishnawbe Aski Police Service says the investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing and no details have been released on the identities of the victims.
Fiddler says the latest tragedy happened almost a year after a 10-year-old girl perished in a house fire in the same fly-in First Nation, located 30 kilometres from the southern coast of Hudson Bay.
At the time, the deputy grand chief of NAN had said the community did not have access to fire services or basic firefighting equipment such as a fire truck.
Although the truck has been delivered via ice roads that lead to the First Nation, NAN has said it is still not operational because there isn’t a place to store and maintain it.
“This tragedy highlights the ever-present danger of fire, especially in remote First Nations, which are at unnecessary risk due to the chronic lack of firefighting, fire prevention, and emergency services,” Fiddler said in the statement.
“We have lost far too many members to house fires and other tragedies that may have been preventable had the proper resources been available. Our leaders are frustrated that these tragedies continue to happen despite our best efforts to secure the resources they so desperately need.”
Recent reports by Ontario’s chief coroner and the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council have found First Nation children under 10 have a fire-related mortality rate 86 times greater than non-First Nation children and Indigenous people living on-reserve are five times more likely to die in a fire.