News — 27 July 2011
Kenora-Rainy River District MPP, Howard Hampton is concerned about the crisis facing some First Nations communities upon their return home, and the shortage of food some communities may experience.
“Most First Nation communities, everyone has a freezer and in the fall they do a lot of hunting, whether it’s geese or moose, and they also fish at the best times of the year, and everything goes in the freezer. That’s essentially how people feed themselves,” said Hampton. “But when the electricity is out for two weeks, everything is gone.”
Hampton says a lot of these residents don’t have the extra money to go to Sioux Lookout or Red Lake to replenish their freezers and food supplies.
The provincial representative is also concerned about the position the provincial government has taken, with the refusal to call a provincial state of emergency.
“I don’t think the people making the top level decisions in the government really appreciated, one, how many fires there were, two, how big they were, three, how intense they were, and four, how fast they were moving,” said Hampton. “I don’t think the provincial government has a grip on what’s going on at all. I don’t think they had a grip on it a week and a half ago, two weeks ago, when the situation started to become serious, and last week when it was virtually out of control. Their strategy now is pray for rain.”
Hampton set off to tour many of the First Nations communities, although was not able to access many of them due to smoke.
“More than half of the communities that we wanted to get to, we couldn’t get to. You couldn’t see the landing strip, the smoke was so heavy,” said the MPP. “What I wanted to do was get an idea of what was happening, but also get a chance to talk to some of the leadership in the communities about what they thought needed to happen and how they were coping, what needs to be addressed.”
Hampton did manage to land in the communities of Lansdowne House, Summer Beaver, Big Trout, Poplar Hill and Deer Lake.
Hampton says Deer Lake was very impressive, due to the MNR setting up an advanced fire base for the western communities at that location. He said there were hundreds of firefighters on the ground, at least seven helicopters and three bombers in the area.
“The MNR staff on the ground were very busy and they were working themselves to exhaustion,” said Hampton.
Although the Mayor of Dryden, Craig Nuttall questions the intentions of Hampton, the MPP says he is doing everything he can to assist at a provincial level.
“He is not happy with what I said about him not being around, but since I’ve been elected, he hasn’t called me,” said Nuttall. “I don’t know where he was up north, but if he was, that’s great, but he has constituents here he needs to look after too.”
By Ally Dunham