Ministry open to working with wildfire task force

By Bryan Eneas
January 29, 2018 - 2:00pm

The new wildfire task force created by the Prince Albert Grand Council may find allies in the Ministry of Environment when it comes to finding answers to a complicated problem.

In the last decade, five wildfires have had direct and serious impacts on Indigenous communities. In response, the grand council created a task force to address Indigenous concerns and marry traditional beliefs with modern practice.

“We think it’s a worthwhile venture for them to have a discussion about wildfire, what it means to them, and provide us any feedback we can look at,” Steve Roberts, from the Wildfire Management branch of the Ministry of Environment said. “Potentially we can incorporate [their knowledge] into how we look at fires.”

Walter Beatty, an Elder with the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation with years of experience in fighting wildfires and consulting with governments on the topic, said he would like to see future wildfires addressed immediately. Roberts said wildfire management teams continue to use their threat assessment tools to determine when and how a fire is fought.

The wildfire management division has previously collected public feedback about wildfires from northern residents according to Roberts. Internally, the organization addresses its operational policies annually.

Wildfire Management staff also conduct informal consultation with provincially employed firefighters, many of whom are Indigenous according to Roberts.

“They come from these communities and have been fighting these fires for 10 to 20 years and either know the Elders, or Elders have worked for our crews,” Roberts said. “We’re already integral into those communities on what’s happened with fires, what fire does in the landscape… what’s important to those communities.”


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