An organization representing 49 First Nations in northern Ontario says it is mourning the death of a 10-year-old girl after a house fire on Weenusk First Nation.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation says the weekend tragedy in Peawanuck, Ont., located 30 kilometres from the southern coast of Hudson Bay, has highlighted the lack of resources and support on First Nations to fight fires.
“It is unacceptable that the lives of this young girl and her family were placed at such risk because of the lack of basic firefighting equipment, fire prevention, and emergency services in their community,” Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum said in a written statement.
“Our leaders are extremely frustrated that these tragedies continue to happen despite all our best efforts to secure the resources they so desperately need.”
She said fires have killed too many Indigenous people over the years and noted a report by Ontario’s chief coroner that found in
2021 that First Nation children under 10 had a fire-related mortality rate 86 times greater than non-First Nation children.
Achneepineskum also said a report by National Indigenous Fire Safety Council First Nation found people living on-reserve are five times more likely to die in a fire.
“Our prayers have been with the family, first responders, and the entire Peawanuck community since we learned about this tragedy,” she said.
“We join them in mourning the passing of this beautiful child whose young life was taken under the most tragic and heartbreaking of circumstances.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.