OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas sent the following letter to Premier Doug Ford today to support the urgent request from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) for Ontario to declare a provincial State of Emergency with regards to the forest fires engulfing Northern Ontario.
July 16, 2021
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
I’m writing to you today to support the urgent request from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) for Ontario to declare a provincial State of Emergency with regards to the forest fires engulfing Northern Ontario.
According to NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, several First Nations have already been evacuated and three more First Nations without road access to large centres may need to evacuate as the fires get closer and closer. There are also municipalities in the region that may be forced to evacuate, which will complicate matters even more.
We know that you have issued an emergency order for the Northwest and deployed the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to the evacuation efforts, and we know our front-line MNRF and Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) members are doing everything they can. But this situation requires more resources, which only a provincial State of Emergency declaration can allow the province to mobilize.
We need to redeploy personnel and marshal the infrastructure, equipment and resources necessary to carry out the evacuations of potentially thousands of people over the next few days. We must coordinate host communities and spaces for those who are evacuated. Only through a provincial State of Emergency declaration can this be achieved.
I read in a statement from the Ministry of the Solicitor General that emergency management in First Nations communities is “the responsibility of the federal government” and that Ontario provides “some preparedness and response activities in First Nation communities.” Right now, jurisdiction doesn’t matter. Only saving lives does.
I implore you to listen to Grand Chief Fiddler and to Northwestern Ontario residents and First Nations who are depending on the province to provide the necessary resources to support them through this disaster. Please issue a State of Emergency declaration immediately.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)