top of page
  • community959

Canadian Wildfires Ignited a Period of Frenzy. No One Knows this Better than the Indigenous People.

By: Eva Luo

Record-breaking Canadian wildfires force Indigenous people to flee from their homes, while ravaging the forests, and blanketing the country in smoke.

This year’s wildfires have covered more ground than average, which is 24,600 square kilometers. The 2023 wildfires have covered over 131,000 square kilometers. While fires usually occur at different times in different places, the 2023 fires are burning simultaneously all over the country. Everyone has been affected, especially the Indigenous Canadians. One Indigenous evacuee, William Wapachee, said, “Before, if we had fire, it was only in one place. Now it seems to be a fire here, a fire there, fire everywhere.” They live close to where the fires are, and because their homes are remote, and have few buildings and people, they are not a firefighting priority. Mandy Gull-Masty, the first elected woman grand chief of the Cree nation in Quebec said, “Our territory doesn’t have a super high population, and we don’t have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be protected. But for us, our territory is our infrastructure.”

Destroying forests and homes, fires also are impeding important cultural activities, like hunting, fishing, and foraging native plants. Raymond Supernault, chairman of the East Prairie Métis Settlement is concerned with the survival of cultural traditions. He said, “Our earth is changing ... and our traditional way of life is now put on hold. You can’t put a price on culture and traditional loss.” The forests also provide what the Aboriginals need. The Native plants gathered by the Aboriginals likely won’t on the lands the fires ravaged, for about 10 years, due to the incinerated minerals in the soil. Since the fire, Supernault hasn’t seen any elk or moose, both important food sources.

Canada’s wildfires, linked to climate change, are fueled by prolonged drought and high temperatures. The wildfires have set a record for the amount of land that they burn, more than 4 times the average. Most of them are caused by lightning strikes. The majority of the fires are in Quebec, with fires still burning from last year, threatening the Indigenous communities in that province. These gigantic blazes have contributed to smoke that blankets many places in the U.S, and has even reached Portugal, French, and Ireland. Exposure to wildfire smoke is known to be harmful. It can irritate the eyes, throat, and sinuses, making it difficult to breathe and cause people to cough. People who are old, pregnant, or have heart and lung conditions are more at risk to smoke.

Authorities have ordered evacuations, which can be difficult, because there may be only a few or no roads to remote communities. People were evacuated by helicopters, and buses, while others tried to drive in cars to somewhere safe. Sometimes, families are separated in the process, sleeping in hotels and gyms. Many have been moved multiple times.

Amy Cardinal Chirstianson, an Indigenous fire specialist, said that Aboriginal communities “really want to be leaders in managing fires in their territory,” but Indigenous communities are increasingly vulnerable because they are often not included in decisions about forest management, and fire response.


2 views0 comments
bottom of page