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Canada's Wildfires Hit Indigenous People Hard: Thousands Forced To Evacuate

By: Benjamin He

“Until the fire nation attacked!” were the exaggerated words of social media personality Steven He during a comedic skit. He was referring to the Australian wildfires that had run wild during the year 2020. “The floor was on fire! Houses were on fire! Everything was on fire!”

While those events may seem long past, the words above are true today for many citizens in Canada. The new fires appeared just three years after the ones in Australia. In late April Canada, parts of northern Quebec were set aflame, a result of the drier conditions in that area. Large swathes of spruce forests were reduced to ashes, destroying many cabins and tourist camps. It also cut off transportation to isolated Indigenous communities over the region’s lone paved road, a 370-mile stretch of highway with little or no cell reception.

At first, some locals tried to leave through the Billy Diamond Highway, only to find that the road was blocked by fire and smoke. “I honestly wasn’t sure we’d make it out,” said Joshua Iserhoff, 45, a member of the Cree nation of Nemaska who was forced to turn back with his wife and two children. “The wind was so ferocious it almost picked up the vehicle,”

Since the month of May, the Canada wildfires have ransacked almost 47,000 square miles of nature, of which the size is equivalent to that of New York State, and has displaced over 25,000 indigenous residents, forcing them to move from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

The wildfires have cost the country’s Department of Indigenous Services over 55 million dollars so far.

The fires have already set records for their destruction and the smoke they emit, some of which heads into the US and causes health problems for many. As of Friday, more than 1,000 fires were active in Canada, over 600 of which are currently out of control.

The evacuations have lasted weeks, some families are hundreds of miles apart, many sleeping in gyms or hotels. By July, eight out of nine Cree communities in Quebec, about 21,000 in total, were under evacuation orders.

Fortunately, there have been no casualties so far, only a lot of displacement.

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