Trudeau pledges to close gaps be­tween First Na­tions, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties

The Western Star - - CANADA - FED­ERAL PAY SYS­TEM

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau pledged to close gaps be­tween First Na­tions and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties on fight­ing wild­fires on Thurs­day af­ter meet­ing with lo­cal lead­ers fac­ing treach­er­ous flames in Bri­tish Columbia.

Trudeau ac­knowl­edged the di­vide in re­sources for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which work with the prov­ince on for­est fires, and First Na­tions re­serves, which fall un­der fed­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties get re­sources from prov­inces, but when the neigh­bour­ing In­dige­nous com­mu­nity turns to the prov­ince: ‘Well, we need re­sources.’ ‘Well, you are a fed­eral re­spon­si­bil­ity,’ ” he said. “We have to clear up those lines of flow­ing re­sources and en­sur­ing peo­ple get what they need, re­gard­less of whether they are in an In­dige­nous com­mu­nity or a non-In­dige­nous com­mu­nity.”

Trudeau left the fed­eral cabi­net meet­ing in Nanaimo on Van­cou­ver Is­land to travel to Prince George in cen­tral B.C. to meet with those work­ing to con­trol some of the 563 wild­fires that have charred more than 6,000 square kilo­me­tres of the prov­ince. He met with fire pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer Tom Rein­boldt, Mayor Lyn Hall, and lo­cal leg­is­la­ture mem­ber John Rus­tad, among oth­ers, in a board­room in­side the lo­cal fire cen­tre, be­fore shak­ing hands with crew mem­bers gath­ered out­side as smoke filled the air and a hazy grey fog hung in the sky.

B.C. has de­clared a state of emer­gency due to wild­fires for the sec­ond time in as many years, and Trudeau said it was im­por­tant to bring to­gether all lev­els of gov­ern­ment to ad­just to the “new re­al­ity” of ex­treme weather events.

Things have im­proved since last year’s dev­as­tat­ing wild­fire sea­son, but more work needs to be done to en­sure In­dige­nous groups are equally pro­tected, Trudeau said.

“We need to make sure peo­ple are safe and that homes and liveli­hoods are pro­tected. That’s some­thing that we are very much work­ing on and we will con­tinue to. We made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments, but ... there’s still lots more to do.”

He has tasked sev­eral mem­bers of the fed­eral cabi­net with co-or­di­nat­ing sup­port, re­cov­ery and re­build­ing ef­forts as the fed­eral and B.C. gov­ern­ments work to­gether to as­sist those af­fected by the fires.

He said his heart goes out to those who have lost homes in the flames. More than 40 struc­tures have been de­stroyed in Tele­graph Creek in north­ern B.C., in­clud­ing 21 on Tahltan ter­ri­tory.

“What Cana­di­ans do is stick up for each other in times of dif­fi­culty,” he said. “We are all heartbroke­n at the ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion peo­ple are go­ing through.

“Peo­ple have lived in these com­mu­ni­ties for gen­er­a­tions, for mil­len­nia in the case of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, and there is a deep at­tach­ment. Watch­ing your en­tire liveli­hood and per­haps your kids’ fu­ture go­ing up in smoke is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult thing.”

Grand Chief Ed John of the First Na­tions Sum­mit said he met with the prime min­is­ter early Thurs­day and de­liv­ered the mes­sage that In­dige­nous groups are over­bur­dened by wild­fires and that they ex­pect them to get worse with cli­mate change.

“The fuel load out in the for­est is mas­sive. We ex­pect that the fires will con­tinue over the years. They will be big­ger. They will be more in­tense,” John said.

While First Na­tions are only five per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, they rep­re­sent 50 per cent or more of evac­uees for all types of evac­u­a­tions, he added.

John is call­ing for a $200 mil­lion fed­eral fund to help the prov­ince’s 203 First Na­tions de­velop emer­gency man­age­ment plans, train per­son­nel and buy equip­ment over the next four years.

CP PHOTO

A map of evac­u­a­tion or­ders and alerts hangs on a wall as Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau lis­tens dur­ing a meet­ing with Bri­tish Columbia Wild­fire Ser­vice staff and other of­fi­cials dur­ing a visit to the Prince George Fire Cen­tre, in Prince George, B.C., on Thurs­day.

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