Hundreds being evacuated from remote Northern Ontario communities
April 21, 2023
By Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Weather delayed evacuees arriving from Kashechewan earlier this week, but hundreds of people have now landed in Timmins.
By the end of the week, the City of Timmins expects 475 people from the remote First Nation on the James Bay coast to be in town. Vulnerable residents from Fort Albany are also being evacuated starting tomorrow (April 21), though their preferred host community is Mississauga.
People are being evacuated from the community on the Albany River due to the threat of flooding with the spring ice breakup on the river. In Timmins, they will be staying at the Ramada Inn and Microtel Inn and Suites.
Timmins Fire Chief Berny Stansa said that 172 people arrived on Wednesday, and they’re expecting the same number today.
“They were supposed to start on Monday, but there was freezing rain, and Tuesday was the same thing so they started yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday we got four flights in, today we’re expecting four today.”
The process is going smoothly so far.
“Things are going well and they’ve got a great time in place taking care of things at the Ramada,” said Stansa. “I’m very impressed with it.”
It’s not known how long the evacuees will be in Timmins.
Moose Factory Island Fire and Rescue take part in regular flights to report the state of the area rivers. The results are shared on its Facebook page.
A surveillance flight this morning saw the Moose River break-up occurring 15.1 kilometres from Moose Factory and Moosonee and there’s a 20-kilometre long ice jam behind it.
While the group reports the Moose River water levels are moderately high, it says that’s expected for this time of year.
Residents are urged to stay off the ice and keep children away from the shoreline in Moosonee and Moose Factory. Another surveillance flight is being done tonight.
Fort Albany First Nation, which is near Kashechewan and also on the Albany River, held a livestream on April 18 to update the community about flooding.
Deputy Chief Terry Metatawabin said that recent reports of high water levels in James Bay, Albany River and the muskeg interior poses a potential high flood threat as this year’s heavy snow melts.
Residents were warned to keep skidoos off the river as well, as the Ministry of Natural Resources has reported that the ice break-up would likely reach the community today or tomorrow.
“There’s really some serious reporting from MNR about the river flow up-river from us,” said Metatawabin.
Representatives from Indigenous Service Canada, Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA), Canadian Rangers and emergency services were present at the livestream.
“The evacuee priorities and considerations will be medical evacuees and those receiving homecare through PHS or residing in healthcare facilities like WAHA,” said Metatawabin. “The primary evacuees will be those that present a higher level of vulnerability, such as members with respiratory issues, elders, expectant women, young children under 5 years old, and members requiring specialized care in mental wellness.”
The total membership within the community is 670 people and 170 families.
Fort Albany’s preferred location for evacuation is in Mississauga. They are working on translation support, trips to Toronto, pet support and medication support for those who are evacuating.
“It’s important that we provide the support we can,” said Metatawabin.
The priority to vulnerable members was also given in Kashechewan, when their evacuation began this week.
Amanda Rabski-McColl is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for TimminsToday.com.
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