PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte. File photo.

The grand chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council says the partnership between First Nation communities and the province needs to improve to better respond to disasters.

This past summer, over 2,500 people were evacuated from Pelican Narrows due to wildfires. While PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte says he was impressed with the response to the disaster, he says there was a lot of confusion during the process. He says dealing with the province over jurisdiction and policies weren’t clearly defined.

“We want to work with the province and the Ministry of Environment to improve this,” said Hardlotte. “We need to work with the province and federal government to ensure less disasters happen in our communities, and we can do that simply by coming together and working together.”

Hardlotte says often First Nations pay for the response to disasters without knowing if or when they will be reimbursed.

Last week in Ottawa, Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson presented to an Indigenous and Northern Affairs standing committee on a similar issue. Chief Cook-Searson says they paid over $800,000 for the fire response efforts in 2015 and didn’t receive any reimbursement for nearly a year. She also spoke about the lack of clarity when First Nations work with the province on disaster response.

Chief Hardlotte says they have begun meetings with the province to work out some of the issues. He says those conversations have been positive so far.

“We have started the work already,” he said. “Hopefully we can make some good announcements in the future for northern people.”

The PAGC passed a resolution at their fall assembly to start that work with the province. Days later, the resolution was also passed by chiefs at the FSIN fall assembly in Saskatoon.

The province has not yet provided comment on the matter.