Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 30
  Thursday, January 30, 2014
 
Question: On-Reserve Housing - Fires and Fire Prevention
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I'm sure everyone in the chamber has heard about the tragic fire in L'Isle-Verte, Quebec, with the senior citizens' home. You probably have not heard that in Saskatchewan, about a week ago, there was a house fire on the Pelican Narrows Reserve in northern Saskatchewan in which two young boys were killed and a young girl was severely burned.

This is the second time in less than a year that there has been a house fire on this reserve in which children have died. The sad reality is that if you live on a reserve, you're 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than if you live elsewhere.

My question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate will be threefold, and I would ask you to take these as notice, because I know you won't be able to provide the answers just like that.

Would you find out and report back on the following questions: First, how many house fires have there been on reserves across Canada in the last 20 years? Second, how many have occurred in Saskatchewan? Third, how many people, adults and children, have died during these house fires across Canada and in Saskatchewan.

I ask these questions because I think it's important that we get a quantitative understanding of how serious a problem this is.

 

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Thank you, senator, for your very precise and technical question. I will take the question as notice and get back to you with an answer that is as comprehensive as possible.

[English]

Senator Dyck: Thank you, Senator Carignan.

Employment and Social Development Canada currently undertakes fire inspections on reserves for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, but apparently that arrangement, according to the media, is coming to an end at the end of this year. As a follow-up question, I would ask you to look into whether that information in the media is true. Is the funding for fire inspections through Employment and Social Development Canada going to end this year? If so, will other groups receive resources in order to take up the slack, as it were? There must be somebody there to do fire inspections.

In other words, what plans are in place? At this point in time fire inspections are not mandatory and children are dying. We need to start getting the information so we can figure out how to put an end to this tragedy.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I will also take that question as notice. Nevertheless, I would like to remind honourable senators that we have made huge investments in construction and water and wastewater infrastructure in Aboriginal communities. Since 2006, we have also supported the construction of 11,000 new homes and the renovation of 21,000 houses in those communities. Thus, much work has been done and many investments have been made in housing on Aboriginal reserves.

With respect to fires, and specifically the issue of inspections, I will take the questions as notice and provide you with an answer as soon as possible.