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Courtoreille says Mikisew Cree Nation can’t wait for new housing

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor EDMONTON







May 12, 2016.

Mikisew Cree Nation Chief Steve Courtoreille wants to see quick action between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments resulting in homes for MCN members displaced by the Fort McMurray fire.

“We don’t want to be jumping through hoops all summer long to get permits for building. My discussion with the (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo) mayor (Melissa Blake) is that you need to give us a green light to build and we’ll deal with the applications at a later date, but let’s deal with this now,” said Courtoreille.

Courtoreille, who toured Fort McMurray on Tuesday with Blake and flew back to Edmonton with her, says he has been proactive in pursuing housing for his members.

Like most First Nations across the country, MCN is also suffering from a lack of housing on reserve for members.

“There’s already a huge demand for housing in our community that we need to look after,” said Courtoreille. “So it has to be an effort from the federal government, the province, the municipality and my community.”

Many of the MCN members evacuated from Fort McMurray and areas south in Wood Buffalo came to Edmonton. But they don’t want to stay in the city. Courtoreille says he is talking to the province about accommodations closer to Fort McMurray.

“We have a 40-man camp that we can mobilize and we need the dollars to mobilize the camp to be able to set it up, put it in operation and staff it and be able to have our people that are going to work have a place to go,” Courtoreille said.

For the families, Courtoreille would like to see lodging close to Fort McMurray.

“Mobile homes to be able to set up in a location where we can set up temporary services of water and sewer hook-up and power so people can move into the homes,” he said. “It could be on the south side (of Fort McMurray) depending on the area that’s available to us and that’s the discussion we need to have with the municipality.”

Courtoreille says it is still unclear what kind of losses MCN members have suffered from the fire that swept through Fort McMurray.

People are experiencing “mixed emotions,” he says, concerned about the loss of mementoes that can never be replaced and worried about having furniture when they get new accommodations.

“It’s understandable that they’re going through all these emotions. That anger is going to come out. Kids and young people are going to be traumatized by the fire. They’re going to need counseling. That has to be followed up,” said Courtoreille.

The Chief is also pushing for the province to give all MCN members the $1,250 per adult and $500 per child pre-loaded debit cards, which started being distributed on Wednesday. He says the impact of the wild fires are being felt by the entire community and not only the evacuees.