While hurricanes in the United States are making headlines, evacuations from wildfires in Manitoba have driven thousands of residents from their homes.
More than 5,000 members of Garden Hill, Wasagamack and St. Theresa Point First Nations have been moved to shelters in Brandon and Winnipeg, in order to avoid the forest fires.
A march was organized yesterday to protest the living conditions in the shelters. Community members let their voices be heard, while they marched from the shelters in Winnipeg to the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg.
Wauzhushk Onigum resident Vivian Ketchum was at the march, and she spoke about the scene.
“There's kids with signs marching. Elders marching. Everyone is marching. I haven't seen the living conditions myself. People are saying that they can't even eat the food there. It makes them sick. Nobody is listening. Everyone wants to help the evacuees in America, but we have our own issues here. We need to look after our own here,” she said.
Ketchum noted that a variety of people are trying to help. Indigenous communities in the area have banded together to bring food and supplies to the evacuees.
One of the organizers of the march and Chief of Garden Hill First Nation, Dino Flett, spoke about why the community members were marching, and he described the conditions that members of his community are living in.
“My community of over 5,000 has been evacuated. The reason why we're marching, is our community members are still in shelters. We're sleeping on cots. No privacy. No access to showers, and we need proper accommodations. We haven't had any help from our provincial government to call a state of emergency for our communities. There's hotel rooms that can be arranged with a state of emergency to get proper accommodations. There's still lots of hot spots of fire around our community. We can't go home, and nothing is being done. They're not even fighting the fire. There's no plan to. We tried being patient, but we're not being heard. The kids are suffering. We are Manitobans too. We're not trying to create a riot. We're just looking for help,” he said.
He noted that there's an eight-month-old baby that's fallen ill, and a sick, elderly man who is doing his best to take care of his seven children.
Flett says that based on the information he has, if the fires are not fought the community members are looking at another three to five weeks in the shelters. Flett estimated that it will take roughly two weeks to take people back home to the community, for a total of a potential five weeks in these conditions.
Ketchum is encouraging Treaty 3 members to help evacuees by making donations of cash to Winnipeg Inner City Missions.