Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time granted me tonight to further discuss a crisis for first nations, the crisis of fire safety.
According to a study done by the Government of Canada, first nations living on reserve are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire than people living anywhere else in Canada. I repeat, they are 10 times more likely. This is not isolated to one region or to only a few communities. This is a crisis that is occurring in communities across the country on a regular basis.
I have spoken to dozens of people in the last couple of months, not to mention the families I have visited in my riding, who have personal experiences with death due to house fires. Members of communities from across the country have gotten in touch with me to share their stories of grief and devastation, what they feel and what their community goes through, when a tragic house fire occurs.
In my home province of Manitoba, investigations have demonstrated that residents of Manitoba first nations are far more likely to die in house fires than people living off reserve because of the systemic underfunding of infrastructure. Fire fatalities are high because in many communities, the first nations are struggling with outdated and overcrowded housing as well as a lack of necessary resources to respond to fires when they happen. In fact, although fires on reserve make up less than 5% of all fires in my home province, they tragically account for up to half of the fatalities.
The minister has this information, which is why, along with hundreds of first nations communities, my colleagues and I are left wondering why it is that nothing has changed. Despite the clear evidence that the current way of doing things is not working, the minister refuses to acknowledge the need to take action and the government's role in ensuring that fire safety in first nations is a priority.
A 2012 study found that five reserves, with a combined population of 13,000, had the resources to budget roughly $18 per person for fire services. However, five non-reserve communities of the same size had the resources to allocate $51 per person. It is $18 on reserve per person and $51 off reserve per person. The current federal government and past federal governments have remained silent about this crisis. The minister continues to download the blame to communities that are facing a real need in terms of resources, all while knowing full well that like education, infrastructure for fire safety is funded at less than half of what residents in non-first-nations communities receive.
The high numbers of fire fatalities on reserve clearly demonstrate that something is wrong. The system is broken. A 2010 federal report identified a number of recommendations to improve fire safety on reserve, including evaluating funding for resources and fire safety education. My question is this: What has happened to those recommendations? What actions have been taken by the government to ensure that all communities have the same access to the fire services they so desperately need?