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Fort Resolution ‘totally unprotected’ without fire department, says MLA

Fort Resolution is still without a functional fire department, according to Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon.

Edjericon brought attention to the matter during the Feb. 8 session of the legislative assembly. In the process, he noted repeatedly that the community of about 500 people has been governed by a GNWT-appointed administrator since the local hamlet council was dissolved by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) last June.

The change came amid concerns of “mismanagement,” but Edjericon attributed it to a “modern-day colonial type of attitude” that makes residents feel “punished.”

“Now the GNWT’s officially responsible for our Fort Resolution government,” the MLA said. “They can’t ignore the serious lack of services the community struggles with.

“One of the most urgent services they lack is a fire department. Long before Fort Resolution council was dissolved, it became clear that the fire department was in jeopardy. The situation was left to spiral out of control until the fire department was hit with a mass resignation. Today, they only have the bare minimum protection for fire and all they can manage is a preventative approach. A preventative approach is a polite way of saying the community of Fort Resolution is unable to respond to a serious fire. Their community is totally unprotected from that threat.”

Edjericon later revealed that, on Jan. 9, Fort Resolution experienced a “serious house fire.”

He called for MACA Minister Vince McKay to lead the creation of a volunteer fire department, emphasizing the importance of collaborating with Fort Resolution Chief Louis Balsillie as well as the Fort Resolution Métis Government on the matter.

In response, McKay pledged MACA’s full support, but contended that “there’s obviously a concern of commitment from community members,” as “volunteerism is down everywhere” in the NWT.

“It is a commitment that community members need to also step up and volunteer, and I hope for the sake of the community that local community members step up and put their name in to help out the community with volunteerism on the fire department,” the minister said.

Edjericon later drew attention to the upcoming fire season, which last year devastated communities across the territory. He called for MACA’s support in creating a “fire plan” to prepare for the season, once again urging collaboration with the local chief, council and Métis government.

In response, McKay contended that MACA’s administrator is already working on a fire plan, which should be “finished off shortly.”

“They’re working with community members, including the Indigenous governments in the community to make sure this plan is up to date. I’m also aware that they completed some Cat guard work within the community. I believe it was the end of December that it was completed,” McKay said of heavy equipment clearing away stretches of trees and brush.

“There is a commitment to complete that and get that done before the upcoming season.”

When reached by NNSL Media, Edjericon agreed to schedule a follow-up interview on the subject of Fort Resolution’s fire department, but then did not respond again by phone or email.

Balsillie also could not be reached for comment on the matter.

Arthur Beck, the president of the Fort Resolution Métis Government, answered the phone but stated he “doesn’t know much” about the fire department.

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North