The $9 million being provided by the Government of Alberta to East Prairie Metis Settlement to help rebuild homes that were destroyed and repair others damaged in this spring’s wildfires is short of what the Settlement council requested.
However, it is a start and negotiations continue, says chairman Ray Supernault.
Supernault says the Settlement requested about $11 million. Assessments continue to peg the damage and report to the provincial government. Out of respect to the government, and because negotiations continue, Supernault declined to further comment.
McKinley Bridge repairs will be one of the biggest repairs. Supernault says he believes Transportation is assessing the damage and will review repairs with council soon. Supernault is hopeful repairs will be completed before school starts.
The Government of Alberta made the funding announcement July 17. Doing the honours were: Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson; Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon; and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair.
“The government’s here to help,” said Nixon, noting that 39 structures were lost including 14 homes.
He added the government worked closely with East Prairie Metis Settlement to ensure needs were met and that the settlement would “come out stronger” in the aftermath of the disaster.
The $9 million comes from the Indigenous Housing Capital Program.
Supernault is appreciative of Wilson’s efforts, saying he has been very open and answered phone calls.
“He was good to us,” says Supernault
A statement made by Wilson during the announcement was misinterpreted by South Peace News.
“It broke my heart to see the devastation in East Prairie Metis Settlement,” said Wilson.
“The pain (residents) must have felt when you returned home,” he added, noting it was the government’s role to move as quickly as possible to get people back into their homes.
It was first reported Wilson was in East Prairie and saw the devastation first-hand, but that was not true, nor did Wilson say he was at East Prairie. South Peace News regrets misinterpreting Wilson’s statements.
Supernault says the Settlement council did want someone from the government to come to East Prairie to see the damage first-hand.
“. . .to have a visual. To put it in perspective,” says Supernault. “You have to see it.”
Supernault adds some residents lost everything in the fires.
“Big losses,” he says. “Some people worked hard all their lives and it takes many years to build.”
Many people worked tirelessly during the ordeal to help meet peoples’ needs. Wilson, Nixon, Sinclair and Supernault all recognized various parties.
Supernault says council worked very hard and “met every day for 30 days” during the crisis. He adds credit must be given and recognized to the settlement membership for their efforts including fighting the wildfires and helping each other.
“Don’t forget the membership and leadership,” he adds.
by Chris Clegg