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Investigation into fatal fire in Peawanuck ongoing

'Words cannot come close to describing the loss of such a young family member. Most of us can only imagine losing a child so bright and loving,' says Mushkegowuk Grand Chief
File photo. Kenneth Armstrong/Village Media

PEAWANUCK — Nishnawbe Aski Police Service and the office of the Fire Marshal are investigating the house fire that killed a child in Peawanuck this weekend.

The fire happened around 8:40 p.m. on Jan. 28. A 10-year-old girl was killed and nine other people were left homeless, with the family currently living in the Weenusk First Nation band office.

Peawanuck is a remote community about 30 kilometres south of Hudson’s Bay. Since the blaze, communities along the James Bay coast and beyond have been pulling together to support the Wabano family.

SEE: Support pouring in after fatal fire in Peawanuck

Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) Det.-Insp. Brad Duce said the investigation is still in the early stages and more information will be available soon.

“NAPS - Northeast Crime Unit as well as investigators with the Office of the Fire Marshal have been engaged and are currently in the community conducting the investigation," said Duce in an email.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) learned about the fire on Jan. 29. It's working with Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), Ornge air ambulance, Mushkegowuk Tribal Council, Payukotayno Child and Family Services to coordinate healthcare workers and mental health supports for the community, said ISC spokesperson Nicolas Moquin in a statement

RELATED: Girl dies in Peawanuck house fire: MP

Ornge provided medical transportation for people requiring additional treatment. An additional nurse also arrived in the community yesterday (Jan. 30) to help with the increased number of people needing help at the nursing station, according to ISC.

People requiring help in the wake of the tragedy can call a 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419. WAHA also has a team of mental health workers on the ground in the community.

"ISC recognizes that incidents like this profoundly impact the entire community. Our thoughts are with all community members, particularly with family members and First Nation leaders who worked so hard to respond to this tragic event. We will continue to provide support to the community in critical fire safety prevention, education and protection work," said Moquin.

The incident has brought to light the lack of firefighting equipment available in Peawanuck and other remote communities and the challenges they face when a fire occurs.

"ISC and the Assembly of First Nations are also working together to finalize a new Fire Protection Strategy, the goal of which is to better inform program and policy decision-making and guide federal investments to promote fire protection on reserves and to reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries, as well as infrastructure losses," reads the statement.

The new First Nations Fire Protection Strategy between ISC and the Assembly of First Nations is in the process of being finalized, but a resolution from the AFN’s general assembly in July calls for funding, education and infrastructure improvements for First Nations communities.

Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Alison Linklater has also issued a statement on the tragedy.

"Words cannot come close to describing the loss of such a young family member. Most of us can only imagine losing a child so bright and loving," she said.

"For 10 years we were blessed to have such a smart and thoughtful person to inspire us to do well for ourselves and those we love. You will remain in the hearts of all Omushkego forever."


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Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

About the Author: Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

Amanda Rabski-McColl is a Diversity Reporter under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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