Irshadgul News report,
A family in the remote community of Pewanak, Ontario, is coping with not only the death of their young daughter, but the loss of everything they owned when a January 28 house fire.
Ten people lived in the house of the Wabano family. The couple’s 10-year-old daughter, Jessie, was killed in the fire. The family is now living temporarily in the band office.
Pewanak is an isolated Cree community in Kenora District, about 35 kilometers from the end of the Winnisk River at Hudson Bay. Its population is less than 300 people.
Retired OPP Sergeant Randy Cota and his wife, Betty Crawford, have set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of helping the family find a new place to live.
“Beautiful people,” Kota said of the family, who are suffering on many levels after the tragedy.
He said that in a community where everyone knows everyone else, the fire sent a “ripple effect” down to the beach.
“We really want them to see[the help.]They’re living in the band office right now, with no privacy,” he said.
“It’s just devastating, you know, losing a little daughter and then being homeless with only the clothes on your back. (But) that’s what community really is about and caring for the less fortunate. We have to step up, Isn’t it?”
Jessie Ihapel, 10, the victim of a house fire in Pewanak, Ont., is seen in this photo with her mother, Jennifer Wabano, on Jan. 28. (supply)
Timmins-Gem Bay MP Charlie Angus tweeted about the tragedy on Monday.
“My deepest sympathies go out to the Wabano family who lost a child in a house fire last weekend,” Angus said.
“The community of Pewanak did not have fire services. This is (a) tragedy that cannot be allowed to happen again.
And the Venibyoko Area Health Authority appealed for donations to help the family.
“We are reaching out to ask if anyone would be willing to donate clothes, jackets and shoes to help them through this difficult time,” the group said on its Facebook page.
And Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu sent this statement to CTV News:
“Tragically, a house fire in Pewanak last weekend claimed the life of a young girl, and my thoughts are with the family and the entire community following this heartbreaking loss.
“On Sunday, I spoke with Chief Hunter to express my condolences and to confirm that Indigenous Services Canada is available to assist in supporting the family and community. Our officers are in contact with Chief Hunter and Pewanak and the area We are working with all partners in the U.S., including the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority. We will provide more updates as they become available.
Kota said local support is growing but he is hoping more people will help the family recover.
“They’re having a tough time,” he said.
“Not only do they have to deal with home and not having a home, but they also have to deal with the loss of one of their daughters.”
“They need the finances to be able to set up somewhere to live. So we’re hoping … we can really make a difference here and re-establish them. And so they have to at least No need to worry about the house.
You can make a donation to the family here.