Ministry of Social Services welcomes Wildfire Task Force feedback

By Bryan Eneas
February 1, 2018 - 8:00am

Indigenous leaders and lobbyists are looking to change the way evacuations are handled in their communities.

Late last week, Prince Albert Grand Council’s Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, called the evacuation procedure implemented during wildfires stressful for Elders. He also said the idea of evacuation is a new concept to Indigenous communities.

In the wildfire of 2017, nearly 90 percent of Pelican Narrows’ population was evacuated. In previous years, the communities of Lac La Ronge, Hatchet Lake, Fond du Lac, Montreal Lake, and communities within the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation have all been affected by wildfire in one way or another.

While Wildfire Management handles a lot of the work in terms of managing and suppressing fires, the Ministry of Social Services handles emergency procedures like evacuation. It seems the ministry is open to taking suggestions from the Grand Council’s wildfire task force.

“We are always looking for feedback to improve our processes around evacuations,” an email from the ministry of social services to paNOW read, adding government relations takes the lead on discussions of this nature.

In the process of determining if an evacuation is necessary, local leaders along with staff from health centres are involved. Once a leader decides an evacuation is needed, emergency management officials from the province coordinate evacuation procedures. A contract is in place between the provincial and federal governments to provide Indigenous communities with emergency social service funds.

During an evacuation, community appointed representatives provide direction around food and recreation preferences, parenting needs, youth activities and “behaviour management.” More community representation is present at operational briefings, according to the ministry’s email.

The same community appointed representation provides input and direction during the repatriation process to ensure things go smoothly.

The Ministry of Social Services said Indigenous communities are consistently consulted during and after an evacuation to determine how services can be improved.

“These conversations with communities have significantly strengthened how we can meet the cultural needs of evacuees,” the email read.


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