The memo was prepared ahead of a meeting with First Nations Congress Chief of Staff Roseanne Archibald scheduled for last October.
For decades, Aboriginal house fires have resulted in far higher casualty rates than outside protected areas. Experts say many factors are to blame, from lack of housing and overcrowding to inadequate education and funding for fire protection and firefighting services.
Another major gap is that national and state building and fire codes do not apply to Indigenous structures. That means it’s up to the community to pass their own ordinances.
Ontario regional chief Glenn Hare believes that has to change.
“It’s very simple,” he said in an interview Friday. “(You) must have fire protection in your home.”
The Hajdu’s director of communications, Andrew MacKendrick, said the minister had met with the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council and then, following directions from Archibald’s office, spoke with the council of First Nations regional chief Cindy Woodhouse on the matter. confirmed.
Wodehouse is responsible for the fire safety file for AFN, a spokesperson for more than 600 First Nations nations. She did not respond to requests for comment, and Congress did not provide comment on its position by the deadline.
According to documents, Hadju’s meeting agenda included the possible legal and regulatory development of backup fire protection.
It also details AFN’s own history on the issue.
Noting that the mayors passed a resolution at a 2017 rally, recognizing the lack of national fire safety standards and supporting the creation of an office that would eventually become the Indigenous Fire Service, part of the Indigenous Peoples Safety Council. Did.
But an Indigenous Peoples Service official said the idea of introducing regulations or legislation was subsequently abandoned “because of a lack of support from indigenous leaders.”
“(The) Assembly of First Nations has never supported a legal or regulatory approach to fire safety. To my knowledge, no partner currently supports a jointly developed fire code approach.” read Hadju’s prepared opening remarks.
AFN executive member Hare said the issue will be taken up at the next meeting.
“I just ask the question. Do we support it?”
He said that indigenous peoples do not accept many of the “norms” imposed on them by the federal government, but it is hard to imagine a chief saying, “Well, we can’t do this.” think.
Wiggins said his office of eight is working to gain buy-in from the community and build the ability of the community to set its own standards.
“It’s not one law for 630 communities, it’s 630 ordinances for 630 communities.”
He said one step Ottawa could take is to work with organizations like his to make better funding decisions regarding equipment.
“I can go to a dozen indigenous communities that have fire engines, actually very good fire engines sitting in disused buildings,” he said. rice field.
“No one knows how to use it”
McKendrick said Haju is open to all options and is considering holding a meeting to discuss fire safety in the coming weeks.
Federal officials have previously noted that enacting Indigenous fire and building laws poses complex problems, given the poor condition of much of the housing stock.
For example, is there a risk of being slammed for a house that doesn’t follow the rules?
For Terance Meekis, who helps fire prevention for Sandy Lake First Nation, the idea of Ottawa introducing fire codes into communities like his raises capacity issues.
The Northern Ontario community has 10 firefighters, more than any other community in the area, Meekis said.
Sandy Lake doesn’t have a fire code, but he said it inspects homes and deals with homes that have only one door or that have blocked entrances. There are no basic facilities such as detectors.
House fires killed three children last year, but Meekis said the community has seen fewer deadly blazes than in previous years.
In fact, one of the first fires he witnessed claimed the lives of his great-aunt and cousin.
“I’ve really fought for fire protection for the last 20 years.”
This report by the Canadian Press was first published on January 23, 2023.
Stephanie Taylor, Canadian Press