‘We’re in need of help!’ Elder pleads for La Ronge fire evacuees
by Brandi Morin, APTN National News, July 8, 2015
COLD LAKE ALTA –Evacuees fleeing the fires in and around La Ronge, Sask say the Red Cross is struggling to keep up with their most basic needs.
More than 1,000 people, many First Nation peoples have been arriving by bus to the city of Cold Lake over the last two days. At the moment, they’re being housed at the local recreation facility.
Many of the elders say that along with the stress of suddenly leaving their homes, some are experiencing a culture shock.
Cold Lake First Nation is nearby the city. Nation members have been scrambling to provide help and comfort to evacuees, however Elder Nancy Scannie said they’re in desperate need of more assistance.
“We’re in need of help!” said Scannie. “They’re overcrowded, short of food and even shoes! They ran out of their houses just as they were dressed.”
She said the Red Cross is not allowing any outside donations to be brought to evacuees staying at the Energy Center. Last night her daughter Debbie Delorme brought coffee and tea there and served it outside to elders while security watched closely.
“I told them, ‘to hell with you!’” said Delorme. “They (Red Cross) told me we can’t bring no food, drinks, clothing or anything because it’s related to hygiene concerns. Well, these people aren’t worried about hygiene! Where they come from they’ll eat off of a cardboard box!”
Scannie said some of the evacuees she spoke to feel like they are being treated like criminals.
RCMP and security patrol the center day and night watching their every move. They’re far from home and far from its comforts and camaraderie.
“It’s pretty tough for them. I feel really bad. They’ve lost everything, they’re so stressed out,” said Scannie.
Both Scannie and Delorme have opened their homes to several evacuees. The Cold Lake First Nation community members are bringing evacuees to the community to feed them freshly cooked traditional foods like moose meat, fish and bannock.
Some have pitched tents near the beach on Cold Lake and Scannie said there’s room for more. She is encouraging people to donate tents so more families can set up camp.
Further donations like blankets, clothes, toiletries and gift cards are needed.
“We’re doing all we can to help and it would be nice if the outside world would notice and help too,” said Scannie.
She said she wants people from La Ronge to leave with good memories from the hospitality of the people of Cold Lake.
“I wouldn’t want people to go back there and say that they got treated badly. Not from Cold Lake anyway- it’s not our style to treat people like that,” she said.