The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) is responding to a recent call from the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) for changes to provincial wildfire policy.

In an email statement provided to MBC Radio News, the SPSA said they are committed to working with First Nations and Indigenous communities in the north.

“The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) works closely with Indigenous communities, First Nations local leaders, the PAGC Task Force and other governing agencies to support the wildfire response capacity of First Nation communities across Saskatchewan. This work has led to changes being implemented, as recommended by the PAGC Task Force,” the statement said.

The agency said they also work with communities on crafting emergency plans and on preventative measures. The SPSA added there have been additional crews put in place to help combat fires.

“As part of the 2023-24 Provincial Budget, the SPSA added more Indigenous contract crews to support the wildfire response capacity and to continue protecting Saskatchewan people and creating safe, strong communities,” the statement said.

Northern MLA calls for government to work with Tribal Council

Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette told MBC Radio News that the calls being made by the PAGC provide a real opportunity for the province to work with northern First Nations.

“Here you go, you have First Nations leaders wanting to sit down with government to say ‘look, we want to work with you,'” he said.

Vermette said he has heard concerns from northern leaders and residents who are worried about the way wildfires are currently dealt with. He said there are also many people in northern First Nations who have a lot of knowledge which could be useful in helping to make improvements. Vermette explained when a group like the PAGC speaks out it is important their concerns be taken seriously.

“Anytime you have a group an organizations’ leaders calling to work with the provincial government, I think there’s an obligation for the government,” he said.

The Cumberland MLA said the calls from the PAGC provide a real chance for the province to do some real consultation with First Nations in what he called a meaningful way. Vermette said the current wildfire situation is making it clear that work needs to be done to find solutions.

“I am hoping the governments’ going to take the opportunity here,” he said.