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Cross Lake First Nation sued over fire

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Also known as the Cross Lake Cree Nation, Pimicikamak is located approximately 770 kilometers north of Winnipeg.

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Two years after their housing was engulfed in flames, Melodie and Patrick North took legal action against their First Nation, the Pimicikamak Cree Nation. They hold her responsible for the deaths of three of their children aged 17, 13 and 2.

In a statement of claim, filed on January 4 in the Court of King's Bench, they accuse the Cross Lake First Nation of providing them with unsafe housing and failing to respond to an emergency fire situation in a timely manner. timely.

The parents are seeking $330,000 from the First Nation on behalf of their grieving family members. They are also seeking general and special damages in an amount that has not yet been determined.

The plaintiffs allege that the Cross First Nation Lake notably breached its legal obligations by housing their family in a structure that did not comply with the fire code.

The statement said the home was intended to serve as a temporary isolation unit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the North family had been placed there indefinitely for nearly a year due to a shortage. of housing in the community.

According to court documents, seven family members slept inside the one-room shelter of 23 square meters and without a fire extinguisher, when the fire broke out.

The complainants claim that the occupants of the accommodation were all awakened by smoke and flames around 4:30 a.m. on February 12, 2022.

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They explain that the only door to the unit was blocked by fire. The father of the family, Patrick North, then smashed a frozen window to allow the girlfriend of one of his sons, his granddaughter and his wife to escape, according to court documents.

The latter would then have run with her little daughter to the nearest housing structure and made a telephone call to the fire station of the community.

The plaintiffs also criticize the Cross Lake First Nation for failing to respond to an emergency situation within a reasonable time and with appropriate means.

They allege that it took 30 minutes for firefighters to arrive at the scene of the fire and that they showed up without water or retarding equipment to put out the fire.

Cross Lake First Nation Chief David Monias did not respond to an interview request prior to publication of this article.

In Canada, First Nations people are 10 times more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people, according to a Statistics Canada study commissioned by the National Aboriginal Fire Safety Council.

Lack of adequate housing and overcrowding are long-standing problems in First Nations communities.

Cross Lake First Nation has not yet filed a defense, and none of the allegations in the statement of claim have been tested in court.

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