The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is mourning the loss of two toddlers who died in an early-morning house fire Tuesday.
RCMP said a two-year-old boy and an 18-month-old girl were being carried out of the burning home by their father when officers arrived. Both children died at the scene.
Band councillor Dean Mitsuing lives just a few hundred feet away from where the blaze happened. When he woke up that morning, his heart sank.
“I was overwhelmed with worry and everything else because they are our neighbours. They live probably 300 feet from my house,” Mitsuing said.
“My dogs were barking last night in the house -- and they kept barking around 1 a.m. and I put them outside and I didn't think anything about it until this morning. I looked over and saw the house was burnt and I contacted the chief and we went over and consoled the family."
Still struck with grief, Mitsuing said this tragedy points to his First Nations’ inability to provide the adequate resources to protect people.
“It all boils down to lack of services," he said. "We don't get the same funding as everyone else -- maybe that could have stopped this, we don't have any services on the reserve.”
Mitsuing spent most of Tuesday calling other family members related to the two children to try and get them back to the reserve to grieve with the toddler’s parents.
In light of the tragedy, the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation announced it was postponing its Winter Classic which was scheduled for this weekend. It’s a major fundraiser that goes towards putting youth in sports.
Confusion over firefighting on reserve
At a media briefing in Regina, RCMP Sgt. Craig Cleary said there was no fire response of any kind to Tuesday's blaze on Makwa Sahgaiehcan.
Protection was once offered by the Loon Lake fire department nearby. However, fire chief Larry Heon said it was discontinued in May 2014 after the band didn't pay them for services rendered.
When asked who was currently responsible for putting out fires on reserve, Heon said "don't have a clue; I don't think anybody is."
Heon explained that the band once paid a $5,000 annual retainer for fire protection, but that had been cancelled in favour of a "pay-as-you-go" service.
He said he was informed of the fire Tuesday morning when a 911 call was automatically routed to him, but his crew didn't go.
"If you don't pay your bills you get no service, right? Just like if you don't pay your gas bill, you get no gas," he said.
Chief Richard Ben told the Canadian Press that he thought they were still paying the Loon Lake department for firefighting services. That was echoed by the band's finance director Kurt Schultz.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada lists Makwa Sahgaiehcan as having a fire hall. An access-to-information request by The Canadian Press shows the band was given just over $11,000 for fire protection in each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.
With files from Canadian Press, reported by News Talk Radio's Francois Biber and Kurtis Doering
http://www.newstalk650.com/story/com...ire/535983What, exactly, does "pay as you go" mean?
And where is the $11,000?
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