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New report shows First Nations children in Ontario 86 times more likely to die from a fire

July 14, 2021
By FFIC Staff

July 14, 2021, Ontario — First Nations children aged zero to nine years have a fire mortality rate 86 times greater than non-First Nations children in Ontario, making them the group with the highest death rate studied in a new data report released this week.

The Ontario Chief Coroner’s Table on Understanding Fire Deaths in First Nations (OCC-UFDFN) Ontario Chief Coroner’s Table on Understanding Fire Deaths in First Nations released its data that examined underlying systemic issues of fire-related mortality for First Nations.

The OCC-UFDFN looked at deaths over a 10 year period spanning from 2008 to 2017, finding 56 deaths in 29 fires that happened in 20 Ontario First Nations communities. The research found that communities without year-round road access had the highest number of fatal fires and deaths. Seventy per cent of First Nations fatalities happened in the colder months and 70 per cent occurred overnight.

The vast majority, 86 per cent, of fatal fires had either no or non-working smoke alarms in the home. The report also showed that more investigations into fatal fires in First Nations communities result in a a finding of undetermined as the causes when compared to non-First Nations areas. The review also looked at structural differences and building materials used in First Nations communities, noting that the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is researching this further.

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The OCC-UFDFN, whose goal was to obtain the data and information that could properly inform an understanding of First Nations fire deaths in Ontario, was formed in the wake of two tragic fires in 2016 in Pikangikum First Nation and Oneida Nation of the Thames. While the deaths to occur from these fires were not isolated events, they did become a catalyst for the OCC-UFDN, which is made of a governance team, working group of technical experts, and an advisory group of knowledge keepers. The First Nations Fire Template (FNFT) was developed to capture the data that is presented in the report.

The OCC-UFDFN’s report makes special reference to the historical basis for First Nations fire risk in Canada, and states at the end of its executive summary that the “information provided cannot be meaningfully understood without considering the historical context and present-day realities of First Nations communities.”


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