Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question raised by the member for Churchill.
The original question, of course, dealt with a terrible tragedy on a reserve in northern Saskatchewan, and I would like to start by offering our thoughts and condolences to the families and the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. Loss of life is a great tragedy, especially when it involves children, and no one can be left untouched by such a terrible event. Provincial fire investigation officials are currently investigating the cause of that fire.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada continues to monitor the situation through communication with local fire officials and the first nation.
Let me assure the House that the health and safety of first nations communities is a top priority for our government. We provide annual funding to first nations across Canada to meet the needs of their communities, and this includes funding for fire protection.
In the case Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, since 2006, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has provided an average of $17,900 per year for the operation and maintenance of the community's fire hall and fire truck. The department has provided an additional $14,700 annually to the first nation for fire protection.
Moreover, we spent $45,000 in 2006 to purchase a fire truck for this first nation. It is important to remember that although Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada earmarks funds for certain purposes, first nations are ultimately the ones who choose how the money is spent.
We understand that everyone has an important role to play in fire prevention and to ensure that all homes and families are prepared in the event of a fire. That is why we are committed to working together with willing partners, whether they are individual first nations, tribal councils, local fire safety authorities, or national and regional organizations, to ensure that first nations have the tools they need to keep their families and communities safe.
Raising awareness about the importance of fire safety and prevention throughout the year is an important part of our government's efforts to prevent fires and fire-related injuries in first nations communities. We are working closely with the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada to raise awareness about the importance of fire prevention on reserve. This work includes providing funding for an annual firefighter skills development challenge as well as the fire prevention activities for school children.
Our government believes that all Canadians deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes, no matter where they live. That is why we are actively working with our partners to ensure first nations on reserve in Saskatchewan and across Canada meet this rigorous standard.