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Officials identify victims of Oneida Nation fire

Dec. 23, 2016, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Ont. -  Ontario Provincial Police have identified five people who died in a fire that destroyed their home and ripped apart a First Nation community south of London, Ont.

December 23, 2016
By The Canadian Press

Police say the house was fully engulfed, and five residents were unaccounted for when emergency workers arrived on the scene on the morning of Dec. 14.

They say the remains of five people were located and have been identified as 43-year old Kurt Justin Antone, and four children _ Keanu Antone, 7, Kenneth Antone, 4, Kance Antone, 3, and three-month old Kyias Antone.

Police, the Office of the Fire Marshal, Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario and others continue to investigate the origin and cause of the fire.

Oneida Nation of the Thames Chief Randall Phillips said after the blaze that the two-storey home was old and “basically kindling.”

Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the federal government is determined to improve aboriginal housing.

Phillips told a news conference after the fire that the government had rejected a plea for money to upgrade 50 houses at the Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Bennett has said the federal government doesn’t know how many indigenous people die in fires on reserves because it no longer collects such statistics.

The collection of fire data was stopped six years ago to ease the “reporting burden” on First Nations communities, the minister said in written responses to questions recently tabled in Parliament.

Earlier this year, a fire on northern Ontario’s remote Pikangikum First Nation left nine people dead, including a five-month-old baby. Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day blamed “Third World” living conditions for that tragedy.

An internal federal government obtained earlier this year by The Canadian Press found that First Nations residents were 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people living off reserve. The 2011 report also said that the fire rates for First Nations were 2.4 times higher than for the rest of Canada.