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Canada Northern Ontario Indigenous community declares emergency over fire deaths

A remote Indigenous community in northern Ontario is struggling to cope after a house fire killed a mother and four of her children in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. Top row (left to right): Geraldine Chapman (the mother and age 47), Angel McKay (age 12), Karl Cutfeet (age nine), and survivor Thyra Chapman (age 19), who was out of town at the time of the blaze. Bottom row, left to right: victims Hailey Chapman (age seven) and Shyra Chapman (age six).

The Canadian Press

A remote Indigenous community in Northern Ontario where five people died in a house fire last week is so overwhelmed with grief that it has declared an emergency.

The blaze on May 2 killed a foster mother, her biological daughter and three children she was raising at the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, also known as Big Trout Lake.

“This tragedy is having a devastating impact on the entire community, with continuing effects that require external support and financial assistance,” Chief Donny Morris said in a release on Thursday.

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“We are feeling the crushing weight of this tragedy in our community and with our people.”

Mr. Morris said many young people are suffering from mental trauma, including some who are talking about suicide.

The community doesn’t have the resources to handle the demand for mental-health care, he said, noting they don’t have enough staff to provide people with the help they need.

“There are too many people to watch and not enough manpower to watch them,” he said.

Mr. Morris said other First Nations have been helping, but more assistance is needed.

He said the community has been in contact with federal and provincial government representatives.

Mr. Morris said the responders, supporters and family members coming into the community need food, shelter and stress relief.

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The fire killed Geraldine Chapman, 47, her six-year-old biological daughter Shyra Chapman and three foster children – seven-year-old Hailey Chapman, nine-year-old Karl Cutfeet and 12-year-old Angel McKay.

The community is about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

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