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Wildfire damages First Nation’s public housing units in N.W.T.

May 31, 2023
By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ten public housing units on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation have either been damaged or burned down following the recent wildfire, the Northwest Territories’ housing minister says.

Speaking in the N.W.T. legislature last week, Paulie Chinna said five seniors’ homes and five more public housing units were confirmed to have been affected by the Hay River-KFN fire, among other buildings.

The disaster comes just months after last September’s release of the Kátł’odeeche First Nation Housing Action Plan, developed in partnership with Housing N.W.T., which presented a goal of building 12 new units in the community over the next two years.

Expressing concern for the First Nation’s housing situation in the legislature, Dehcho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge said many residents of public housing on the First Nation’s reserve are vulnerable. He called for more communication about what the loss of some public housing would mean for affected residents.


“We do have 10 federal housing units that are available in Hay River today,” said Chinna, presenting those units as a possible alternative, but Bonnetrouge said KFN members shouldn’t be asked to leave their community.

“What are Housing N.W.T.’s plans to replace those units moving forward?” he asked.

“We are working directly with emergency management and also with Kátł’odeeche, and looking at finding further solutions to replace those units,” said Chinna.

“I’m not too sure of the condition and if we’ve actually lost all of those units, or if there’s just severe damage to them. But as we go forward, I will provide those updates to the member.”

Evacuees are still waiting to see the extent of the damage in their community.

Kátł’odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel was not available for comment, but has repeatedly stated on Facebook that the Nation is still working to ensure the community is safe for residents to return.

There was very little change to the fire next to the community over the weekend. The N.W.T.’s wildfire agency now classifies the fire as “being held,” meaning it is not currently expected to grow beyond a specified perimeter or breach defences put in place to protect the First Nation and neighbouring town.

Caitrin Pilkington is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Cabin Radio.

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