THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler shared frustration with the provincial response to the threats posed by forest fires in the northwest region, as Premier Doug Ford visited forest fire management headquarters in Thunder Bay on Tuesday morning.
Fiddler, and NAN’s frustrations with the provincial government started when NAN called on the Ford government to declare a state of emergency on July 12 to assist remote First Nation communities threatened by fire.
“Their response at that time was to issue what they call emergency orders. We’re not really quite sure what that means, what that entails,” said Fiddler.
“We know what a full emergency declaration would entail, it’s about allowing all of us to be able to access whatever resources that are out there that are needed to support our families, and to fight the fires, and to support our communities.”
The province issued an emergency order on July 14 due to the forest fires in Northwestern Ontario, allowing the government to take special measures to ensure the safety of people and the protection of critical property.
As of July 27, there were 157 active fires in the Northwest region according to the Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services. Fifty-one fires were not under control, 10 fires were being held, 32 fires were under control and 64 fires were being monitored.
Nearly 3,200 people from five communities have been evacuated. Deer Lake and Poplar Hill are fully evacuated, while Pikangikum, Cat Lake, and North Spirit Lake are partially evacuated. Evacuees are staying at host communities in Thunder Bay, Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Cornwall, Timmins, Sudbury, Sioux Lookout, Sault St. Marie, and the Peel Region.
“I think there’s a little confusion, what a state of emergency is, it’s not going to add any more resources, it’s basically the province is coming in, taking over everything,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“We believe in working with collaboration, cooperation, with First Nations, with municipalities, that’s the only difference, is the province will come in and say you can’t go down this road, there’s already emergency orders put in place, so it’s not holding back any resources. We will put all the resources we have, I won’t spare a penny, and we’ll make sure we’re there to support the people of Northwestern Ontario.”
Fiddler once again expressed frustration at the situation.
“Their response, the last week or so, and again today, confirmed by Premier Doug Ford, that they will not go there, that’s not what we’re asking for, and I think we’ve been very clear on what that is.”