ALBERTA UPDATE: As of 13:30 MST / 15:30 EST, Wednesday, May 10, 2023:
In Alberta, active wildfires are threatening nine First Nations communities, including:
• Little Red River Cree Nation community of Fox Lake
• Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation
• O’Chiese First Nation
• Whitefish Lake First Nation #459
• Sunchild First Nation
• Swan River First Nation
• Sucker Cree First Nation
• Driftpile Cree Nation
• Beaver First Nation
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and partners continue to assist both First Nations individuals who remain in their communities and individuals who were evacuated with: mental wellness supports, Non-Insured Health Benefits program access, Jordan’s Principle program access, and nursing and environmental public health services.
The Little Red River Cree Nation community of Fox Lake is greatly impacted by the wildfire, which is still classified as out of control. All residents of Fox Lake have been evacuated to nearby communities. ISC and partners continue to support individuals in the host communities of John D’or Prairie, High Level, Fort Vermillion, Garden River, and La Crete.
Initial assessments indicate that over 100 structures have been lost, including the Northern Store and residences. ISC is assisting Little Red River Cree Nation with the installation of temporary housing in the community of John D’or Prairie to enable evacuated individuals to return to familiar surroundings. When operational, this temporary housing will be able to accommodate 500 individuals and includes a commercial kitchen and other basic amenities.
Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation was also severely impacted by wildfire, which is still classified as out of control. 1,600 First Nations individuals were evacuated to Edmonton, Valleyview and Grande Prairie. Initial assessments indicate that 45 structures have been lost to fire, including the Elder Centre and residences. Power to the community was lost and power infrastructure in the community was destroyed. ISC is also assisting Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation with the installation of temporary housing that will be able to accommodate over 100 individuals.
Individuals who have been affected by wildfire or who have been evacuated can access health services through provincial health care systems or access virtual supports such as 24/7 mental health support through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or through online chat at hopeforwellness.ca. In Alberta, additional mental wellness supports are also available via the Alberta Indigenous Virtual Care Clinic at 1-888-342-4822.
Non-Insured Health Benefits eligibility remains the same in the event of an evacuation. In Alberta, please call 1-800-232-7301, and in Saskatchewan, please call 1-866-885-3933 for all eligible benefits.
The Non-Insured Health Benefits program provides eligible First Nations and Inuit clients with coverage for a range of health benefits that are not covered through other: social programs, private insurance plans or provincial or territorial health insurance.
For First Nations communities that have not been as severely affected, ISC officials in Alberta remain in contact with First Nations leadership as each situation evolves to ensure an effective response and maintain ISC supported services.
First Nations are also eligible to access funding through the Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP). EMAP provides funding to First Nations communities for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.