Emergency response called for to assist area communities impacted by flooding
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
Incumbent Kiiwetinoong NDP candidate Sol Mamakwa is calling for an emergency response from the provincial and federal governments to help communities in the riding and throughout the northwest being severely impacted by flooding.
Mamakwa issued the following statement on May 22.
“The flooding happening now in Sioux Lookout is affecting homes and businesses across the municipality. In Red Lake, their only access roads are still cut off by flooding, impacting their access to essential goods and services.
Pikangikum, Poplar Hill and Grassy Narrows First Nations are all being flooded. They need federal and provincial assistance now.
“Camp owners and tourist operators up and down Highway 105 cannot guarantee safe passage to their customers travelling in for the beginning of the season.
“The response from provincial and federal governments is not adequate and is not reaching people during this crisis. People don’t know where to turn. They are helping each other to protect their homes and their property, but they urgently need the support of their governments now.
“I am calling on both levels of government to treat this crisis as an emergency and mobilize the resources needed to help the people of Kiiwetinoong and the Northwest now. There is no more time to waste.”
In a series of Twitter posts on May 21, Mamakwa notes, “On May 18th, I visited Pikangikum. Chief Owen told me their water levels rose 12 feet. The Northern Store is now on an island. Community members have to go shopping by boat for their essential supplies. There is no other way to get there… I saw groceries arrive at airport, then trucks have to take them to a pontoon boat to get to the store. They now need a larger barge to take a sewer and water truck across to the store. Chief Owen said they had cold winter earlier and had lots of snowfall March and April… The ground is still frozen and the water is flowing into the river & lakes at a higher rate than normal causing this unprecedented flooding. Communities across the north are being disrupted by flooding. Why is stable access to essential supplies too much to expect here?”
A press release issued by Pikangikum First Nation on May 20, indicates the community is hoping to avoid the need for evacuations, but notes “Pikangikum First Nation is currently facing significant increases in water levels. The road to the Northern Store, which is the community’s sole source of food, has been washed out. The flooding also threatens major infrastructure, which could potentially impact access to clean drinking water.”
Pikangikum’s Chief and Council, along with the community’s Tribal Council, Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA), are doing what they can to mitigate potential risk to food, fuel, and water security. IFNA has reached out to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) on behalf of the community in the hopes that they can avoid another evacuation. The community was forced to evacuate last summer due to forest fires in the region.
Pikangikum Chief Dean Owen stated, “We are all currently on the ground working hard to manage the situation before it turns into a crisis to avoid another evacuation, which is why we reached out to our government partners.”
According to the Ontario Government’s flood information website, https://www.ontario.ca/page/floods, as of May 22, a total of 28 northern communities have declared a Sate of Emergency either due to high water levels or the need to host evacuees from flooded communities. Thirteen of those flooded communities are First Nations.