This year in the northwest can be described as resilient.

Early in the year, hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate south to seek refuge in Regina, Saskatoon and other communities as wildfires and poor air quality from local smoke threatened people’s health.

A blaze near La Loche sent residents to the capital, while the nearby community of the Clearwater River Dene Nation transported residents to Meadow Lake and Lloydminster. Fortunately, there were no casualties or structural losses in the May fire.

“Some people during the power outage lost food. So, we were able to help those families, with each person getting $100,” said Athbasca MLA Jim Lemaigre. As residents returned home, the province offered each person a $100 voucher to replenish provisions.

Lemaigre said, as a result of the fires, he was appointed to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency Board to advise on Northern issues.

On a positive note, the NexGen Energy uranium project north of La Loche, last month received provincial approval, bringing the mine closer to fruition.

Looking ahead to next year, Lemaigre explained he is wanting to advocate for increased mental health and addictions supports, while preparing for a general election.

(With files from Michael Joel-Hanson. Photo credit to Michael Joel-Hanson)