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Eabametoong First Nation receiving over $500k in provincial support

By CJ Goater Apr 25, 2024 | 12:54 PM

Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs - Acadia Broadcasting File Photo

The Eabametoong First Nation has received a total of $540,000 to support the community after a fire destroyed the John C. Yesno Education Centre, leaving the remote fly-in community without a school and community hub.

“What has happened in our community over the past year with both of the major fires we have experienced has been quite devastating,” said Chief Solomon Atlookan. “Our local infrastructure has been severely impacted, our students no longer have a school, our families no longer have a recreation and gathering place and it will be years until a new one is built. That is hard for most people in Ontario to comprehend.”

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs have teamed up to provide $250,000 to help the community respond to their needs, while supporting students, including transition support for Grade 9 students, emergency supplies, food, and mental health and well-being.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of Indigenous communities, particularly during times of crisis, is a top priority for our government,” said Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford. “Our team mobilized quickly and continues to work closely with Eabametoong First Nation to identify the community’s needs and help rebuild crucial infrastructure to sustain the community’s strength and vitality.”

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services is providing $120,000 through the Indigenous Healing and Wellness Strategy to support needs related to mental health, land-based programming, and health and safety, and up to $20,000 to Eabametoong First Nation to address emergency food security needs exacerbated by the fire.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport is providing $150,000 to support children and youth in the community affected by the loss of their school. This support is in addition to the $71,500 in annual funding for Eabametoong First Nation through Ontario’s After School Program.

The Ministry of Education is providing an additional $240,000 to support the Keewatin Patricia District School Board’s Rapid Response Northern Schools Team.

This team provides staff that mobilize and deploy in local First Nation communities in response to requests made by communities during times of crisis and urgent need.

In addition, the ministry is providing curriculum resources to Matawa Education to help students from kindergarten to Grade 9 complete the school year.

“However, it has been very positive working with Minister Rickford and Ontario’s team to help everyone understand that the deeper mental and social health issues that cause this destruction need to be addressed — not just putting up a building,” added Chief Atlookan. “We are working together to support the healing and recovery of our people so that Eabametoong can thrive again. EFN’s Chief and Council are appreciative of the rapid and sincere actions taken by Ontario to work with us through this trying time.”

The community school was lost in a fire on January 25, leaving 299 students from JK to Grade 9 without a place to learn for the rest of the school year.

At the time of the fire, the community was supposed to have two wildfire rapid attack trucks on hand after the government supported the purchase in October. Unfortunately, due to the winter roads not being completed, they had not been able to arrive in the community for use, leaving firefighters with little support to combat the fire.