A task force consisting of Elders and technicians has been created by the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) to address wildfire management across the North.
The newly minted task force is the first step being taken by PAGC to help reform the provincial wildfire response system prior to the start of a new season.
The wildfire task force is designed to provide an independent review of the provincial Wildfire Management Strategies according to a release issued by the Grand Council on Jan 19. The creation of the task force follows a mandate issued during the legislative assembly hosted last fall.
Due to the extent of the wildfires at Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation, Hatchet Lake Denesuline Nation, Lac la Ronge Indian Band, Montreal Lake Cree Nation and the Peter Ballantyne Cree in the last decade, Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte called for a thorough review of provincial practises.
“Had an immediate response and appropriate action taken place, the amount of land destroyed by these wildfires would not have been so immense,” Hardlotte said. “As a result, the ability of our First Nations to sustain themselves has been lost for years to come.”
He added Indigenous people have and continue to rely on both the lands to provide food and sustenance as well as traditional medicines.
Chief Peter A Betty of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation said the current strategy has failed to protect forests where Timber Leases Agreements exists. He said the economic value of the forest in terms of development was compromised by last year’s wildfire. He said the current policies do not protect trappers.
“Trappers' cabins, equipment and personal items were lost during last year’s wildfires, but they have yet to receive any compensation,” Beatty said. “We understand that wildfire victims in British Columbia were compensated for their losses, as well as cattle producers and farmers in southern Sasktchewan… and we believe First Nations should also be treated accordingly.”
The task force is set to host its first meeting on Jan. 26, 2018 and will be chaired by Hardlotte.
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