Indigenous leaders, policy experts say legislative gap must be closed to prevent fire-related deaths on reserve – The Globe and Mail

A house fire in Pikangikum First Nation in Northern Ontario claimed the lives of five-month-old Amber Strang and three generations of her family in March, 2016, and similar tragedies have been repeated since in Indigenous communities across the country.

But Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said it doesn’t know exactly how many people have died in the past five years because First Nations are not required to provide fatality information to the department.

Indigenous leaders and policy experts say a fundamental legislative gap must be closed to prevent other fire-related deaths from happening and want federal party leaders, including during this federal election, to prioritize the life-and-death matter.

Experts say the crux of the issue is that provincial laws do not apply on reserve because of the federal lndian Act, resulting in a lack of sanctions. They say fire-inspection regimes are not uniform and vary from community to community, with the responsibility for fire protection falling to individual First Nations.

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