First Nations demand $10M to launch emergency services agency

FSIN interim chief Kimberly Jonathan says First Nations in Saskatchewan can manage emergency services in their communities with funding of $10 million to launch a technical services cooperative.

New entity to provide technical and emergency management services for reserves

Kimberly Jonathan is interim chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

FSIN interim chief Kimberly Jonathan says First Nations in Saskatchewan can manage emergency services in their communities with funding of $10 million to launch a Technical Services Cooperative.

Jonathan announced the initiative Friday and called on the provincial and federal government to immediately end discussions on emergency management needs of First Nations and simply provide $10 million in funding to support the First Nations cooperative.

"The FSIN [Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations] executive council is demanding that [the] government of Saskatchewan and the government of Canada cease and desist all discussions that would see $10 million of Indian monies transferred to the province and redirect those resources to the development and implementation of the Technical Services Cooperative," she told reporters during media conference in Prince Albert, Sask.

According to Jonathan, the FSIN was told about discussions by federal and provincial officials relating to emergency services for First Nations communities, but were never included in the talks.

"[The] FSIN was recently informed that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the government of Saskatchewan have negotiated a bilateral agreement for emergency management services on reserves without the participation of those affected," Jonathan said.

Essential services a priority of First Nations, Jonathan says

Fire safety and response in remote communities, particularly First Nations reserves, has been under a spotlight following a house fire on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northern Saskatchewan that killed two toddlers.

During the media conference Jonathan also spoke about a statement she released, after the fire, in which she criticized Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's comments about the tragedy.

Jonathan said her statement was released to point out that First Nations leaders have been working for some time on a management framework that would provide technical and essential services on reserves.

"Chronic and severe under funding of programs and services across the board on reserves makes it impossible to address priorities on an equitable basis," Jonathan said Friday. 

The proposed technical services cooperative would help address that issue and the concept now has the support of FSIN's executive council.

Jonathan explained that the agency is still in the planning stages and stressed it would be run by Saskatchewan First Nations. She said it is not based on any other Canadian emergency management model, because none like it exist.

"Essential services such as water quality, community planning, fire protection, housing codes and standards and emergency management will be coordinated by the cooperative," Jonathan noted.

There was no immediate response from provincial officials concerning the proposed cooperative.

With files from CBC's Madeline Kotzer


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