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New Survey Looking to Document Wildfire Impact on Indigenous Communities

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
New Survey Looking to Document Wildfire Impact on Indigenous Communities

A new survey is being launched to better understand the impact the wildfire had on the Indigenous communities.

This is a part of a research project that started last November.

The 12 Indigenous communities in the region came together to help form the project which looks at accessing the social, economic, cultural and political impacts the wildfire had on Indigenous peoples.

Speaking on behalf of the Athabasca River Metis, Jay Telegdi tells Mix News the research shows the wildfire was only the catalyst as many of the problems facing these communities were there before.

“Going into it, not everybody in the RMWB entered the fire at the same preparedness and what we’ll see is the fact that a lot of these Indigenous communities were disasters waiting to happen and it wasn’t a natural disaster or a freak that set it off, it was man-made decades of public policy.”

Many of the communities such as Conklin, Janvier, and Fort McKay helped house people who were evacuating from Fort McMurray.

Telegdi says he’s spoken with many different people in the communities who say they were happy to help but weren’t prepared for a situation like that.

“After our first responders, fire service, police service, bylaws, paramedics did such a great job it was the rural and Indigenous communities that were really there as the first line of defense to help and support the residents of Fort McMurray.”

“What we saw really was in some cases the people with the least gave everything they had to help their neighbours. It was great that everyone came together and showed that support but there was no plan and that was exposed and there’s still no plan.”

Some of the other findings are showing that Indigenous communities are having a tough time with their recovery.

Telegdi notes many don’t have bank accounts, email addresses or phones due to a lack of availability in their area – making it hard for people to connect with families and their insurance companies.

“There are just no services, there’s no bank in Fort McKay, there’s no bank in Conklin so there’s that.”

Those are some examples of the project is hoping to address.

Disaster Recovery Coordinator with the McMurray Métis Bryan Fayant says the goal is to help with better preparedness by fixing problems that were around before the fire.

“The communities need to be prepared, they need to be ready, what does that look like and now what do we do to build the resources going forward from here.”

He adds some of the other needs are better evacuation plans for the communities, better services, as well as better connectivity with the municipality and officials.

The research project is continuing into 2018 with the group starting an online survey for Indigenous people to participate.

They will get a chance to answer questions about their personal impact from the wildfire, about their recovery, insurance, and more.

The survey will remain open until January 2018 with the entire results of the project being released in May 2018 around the two-year mark of the wildfire.

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