Nunavik pressures Quebec for civil protection money
Local fire brigades and emergency measures committees lack training, co-ordination and equipment, KRG head Johnny Adams says.
KANGIRSUJUAQ — Quebec officials and the Kativik Regional Government agree that Nunavik needs to be more equipped to deal with emergencies.
The pending coroners’ inquest into the deaths caused by the New Year’s Day avalanche in Kangiqsualujjuaq is expected to recommend ways Nunavik communities can better prepare themselves.
But to date, the two parties haven’t been able to see eye-to-eye on how much money is required to bring Nunavik’s emergency services network up to scratch.
This state of affairs doesn’t make the chairman of the Kativik Regional Government very happy.
Johnny Adams expected that an agreement on emergency measures and fire protection would be a done deal by now.
“We don’t have it, although we were told in George River after the tragedy that we would,” Adams said.
Public Security Minister Serge Ménard has promised swift action on an agreement to help communities in Nunavik build fire halls, train personnel and prepare emergency-response plans.
The KRG now receives $135,000 for these services, an amount that it says is “insufficient to provide adequate service, coordination and training to the emergency measures committees and fire brigades.”
The KRG says that material losses due to fire were five to seven times higher in Nunavik from 1982-93 than elsewhere in the province because of this unpreparedness. There were also 13 times more deaths and six times more injuries.
Since 1980, the KRG has been asking the Quebec government to alleviate these risks. In 1995, a joint study assessed the region’s needs for civil security and fire prevention and in November, 1997, a revised list of Nunavik’s urgent needs was submitted to authorities.
“After Kangiqsualujjuaq, the list was accepted,” said Adams. “But it’s only a verbal agreement.”
Quebec has tentatively approved $2.9 million to build or renovate fire halls and purchase equipment. Its annual contribution to the KRG would also be increased to $700,000, according to Adams.
But the KRG’s assessment of Nunavik’s real needs is closer $3.1 million in equipment and buildings, alone. The KRG also wants the department of municipal affairs to include $280,000 in the annual financial assistance paid to each community.
“We can’t offer more than the executive council approved,” said Marc Lavallée, spokesperson for the department of public security.
The KRG will now likely wait for the coroner’s additional recommendations before pushing Quebec to make good on its promises.
The inquest is reportedly set to begin March 29 in Kangiqsualujjuaq.