Pikangikum, Ontario – After four weeks the First Nation community of Pikangikum is finally returning home. The vulnerable population was evacuated from community starting on July 12, with more than 1,000 people being taken out of the community to Sudbury, Timmins, Sioux Lookout, and Thunder Bay.
“The fire threat has reduced somewhat to moderate, over the last four weeks, and we are ready to have our community members return home,” said Chief Dean Owen. “Everyone evacuated from Pikangikum is missing their homes, their families and their Pikangikum way of life. We have made the official request for repatriation, and we are letting those that have evacuated on their own know that it is now safe for them to return.”
The community, and their Tribal Council the Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA), express their appreciation to the partners they are working with including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the Ontario Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) who are helping to schedule return flights from all host communities. “We are hoping to have everyone back in the community by Saturday at the latest” says Mathew Hoppe, CEO of IFNA. Chief Dean Owen acknowledged these organizations, saying “We thank all of our partners for the hard work they have put in over the last month. In particular, we thank the host communities that have kept our people housed, fed, comfortable and safe.”
Chief Dean Owen continued “While we appreciate everyone who came to our aid, these host communities are where our people spent their time away from home. Once again IFNA also took on the role of host community when capacity for familiar host sites in the north was exhausted. This is the third time in two years IFNA has done so. It is important to increase our First Nation host capacity here in the north and we are proud that IFNA is leading the way. Miigwetch, Thank you to all.”