Published on August 3, 2021 by Sootoday

A number of community partners have been working together in order to provide support for 102 residents of North Spirit Lake First Nation who have been forced to evacuate their homes due to ongoing wildfires in northwestern Ontario.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie announced July 20 that roughly 100 evacuees would be accommodated locally, with logistics being handled by the municipality’s emergency management division with support from Canadian Red Cross and community, provincial and federal government partners. Indigenous Services Canada is handling the costs associated with the evacuation.

According to Cathy Syrette, executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie Indian Friendship Centre (SSMIFC), the group of evacuees primarily consists of elders and a number of young families with children. Community partners have been working to meet the needs of evacuees by providing child care through the Urban Indigenous EarlyOn program, while helping elders with assistive devices and interpreters for those who only speak Oji-Cree, a cross between Ojibwe and Cree that’s prevalent in the upper reaches of the province.

“The people have stated that they’re appreciative of the treatment they are receiving,” said Syrette, speaking to SooToday last week. “Everyone in Sault Ste. Marie is kind and friendly – and this is feedback from the community, so thumbs up to Sault Ste. Marie. We’re just awesome.”

The friendship centre is currently working in partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Indigenous Services Canada, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Corporation, Batchewana First Nation, Garden River First Nation, Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services and other organizations.

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