So after being in the north for a few days and being sick the rest of the time. I still managed to get out two podcasts this week. This post will be short, I'm cough syrup queening right now, but it will give you the gist.
1) Uncorked Spirits
EPISODE 5: Saskatchewan music festivals and their various starting points
Victoria and Geraldine talk with the founders of Nesscreek, the infamous defunct Georgestock and the (semi) new and notorious Grilledcheesapolooza
2) Meeting Ground
MEETING GROUND FOR JULY 18 & 19 2015
More extensive coverage of the Saskatchewan Wildfires, with a special report coming from Kelly Malone at the Montreal Lake Cree nation who joins evacuees as they return home to see what is left of their community, a discussion with reporter Bryn Levy who has also provided special coverage of the wildfires, and the sounds and voices of firefighters and provincial organizers.
Lasia Kretzel joins the cast and crew of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan which has company has partnered with the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company to create a Cree business version of the Bard's Othello.
Brent Bosker has MORE coverage of the Saskatchewan Wildfire in the weekly Meeting Ground News Update.
Click for more from Meeting Ground's top news and stories.
La Ronge-area evacuees return home
La Ronge-area evacuees are returning home after the area received a big dose of rain.
The mandatory evacuation order for Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Air Ronge and La Ronge has been lifted, according to an email from Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson. The road will open at 1 p.m. on Friday.
The evacuation order has also been lifted for Wadin Bay, English Bay, Southend and Deschambault Lake.
The La Ronge area received 14 millimeters of rain overnight and another 30 millimetres is expected in the next 24 hours.
"There's puddles all over, so it's nice to see we did get a lot of rain," Cook-Searson said on The Brent Loucks Show.
While there was still smoke hanging in the air Friday morning, the wildfire threat is no longer affecting the area. There are currently 112 fires burning in the province, which is much less than the 127 burning on Thursday. Fire crews extinguished 20 fires and five new ones started.
As people return home, the provincial government says they should not be surprised to still see fires. Fire crews are still working on blazes.
While the mandatory evacuation has been lifted, the general order is still in place for people with chronic illnesses, children under two years old and pregnant women.
Read more here.
Wildfire evacuees reunited with their pets
Thousands of evacuees are heading home and now they’re picking up their pets.
While people were relocated to makeshift shelters, their animals were taken in by the Prince Albert SPCA.
On Friday, evacuees from La Ronge, Lac La Ronge Indian Band and Air Ronge were told they could return home.
According to John Morash, executive director of the Prince Albert SPCA, they’ve been busy matching pets to their owners ever since.
“We have a number of people who are heading home and they are coming in to redeem their dogs,” Morash said. “It’s a very happy situation to see owners reunited with their pets.”
Over the last few weeks, the SPCA has taken in over 150 dogs, three cats, one turtle and one parrot.
Read more here.
Red Cross continues to support evacuees
Thousands of evacuees have been cleared to return to their home communities but the work of the Red Cross is not over yet.
"We're at a point in the response where we need to quickly shift efforts as evacuation orders are lifted so things are moving very, very quickly," commented Cindy Fuchs. "We anticipate that many more communities over the next few days will also have their evacuation orders lifted and will also be happy and returning home."
Until that time, 300 trained Red Cross volunteers are providing support services to thousands of evacuees on behalf of the Saskatchewan Government.
As of Thursday evening there were a total of 8,700 evacuees registered with the Red Cross.The numbers are changing quickly as many evacuees start to head home in their own vehicles.
"People returning to a community that was evacuated will be provided with ground transportation in the form of buses or we will and have been providing gas cards for those who are returning in their own vehicles," said Fuchs.
Partner organizations have also helped provide food and water for the return trip home. Fuchs says evacuees can also take whatever supplies they have already been given in the shelters.
Read more here.
U of S prof studies impact of fire evacuations on First Nations
A University of Saskatchewan professor would like to see families evacuated together when wildfires pose a risk to northern communities.
Typically, those with respiratory problems are evacuated first to the closest community that can host them. Those communities fill up, then the next wave of people are sent to a different community.
"Then we see people housed as far away as Regina and Cold Lake," Jim Waldram, professor in the departments of archaeology and anthropology and psychology, said in an interview with CKOM News.
"Family fragmentation creates other kinds of social, cultural, psychological risks for the people beyond the simple health risk of smoke."
Waldram has researched how evacuations affect families and First Nations communities. He did a study on the Hatchet Lake evacuation in 2011.
Waldram said he was struck by the lack of understanding when there was very negative press about some members of the community that were in evacuation centers at the time.
Read more here.
Touching care package lifts spirits for firefighters up north
Some volunteer firefighters in La Ronge got a nice pick-me-up this week from children in the Lloydminster area as a care package full of snacks and handwritten cards arrived on Tuesday.
"When we opened it up we got an amazing surprise. All the boxes had thank you cards and messages on them. Even the individual granola bars had little notes on them," said firefighter Terry Beck.
Read more here
Evacuees return to Montreal Lake Cree Nation with smiles
Ramona Ross was already hard at work at the local gas station on the Montreal Lake Cree Nation Thursday morning as more than 1,000 people returned to the community after nearly three weeks of evacuation around the province.
“I was shocked to see how many trees are gone and how many people were gone and how quiet it was, it was like a ghost town,” Ross, who arrived late Wednesday night, said. “Getting back to work and adjusting, seeing everybody come back today is really nice, really nice.”
Ross sat outside on a quick break in an extremely busy day to give the local volunteers and firefighters a handshake for all of their hard work. She had been staying with family on the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation but was ready for her own bed.
“I was so happy, I was packed already a day before,” she said.
Bus after bus arrived in the community throughout the day dropping off community members who bustled through puddles from a recent rain shower with smiles wide on their faces. But Ross said they are aware that not everyone has somewhere to come home to.
“There are a lot of people who are down. Some of them lost everything, completely everything. Some people left with nothing, a lot of the donations they got in PA helped quite a bit, so they are coming back with something,” she said. “But it’s hard knowing you are coming back and you don’t have a house, I feel really bad.”
Read more here.
B.C., Saskatchewan want co-ordinated national approach on wildfires
The premiers of Saskatchewan and British Columbia would like to see a national approach to fighting forest fires, fearing this year’s wildfires are the new normal.
Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall said Thursday he is grateful for the help his province has received from across the country and called for a partnership between the provinces and the federal government to ensure equipment is available where it is needed.
Training for military personnel on fighting fires also needs to be looked at, he said after a meeting of the country’s premiers in St. John’s.
“We do want our federal government to join with us in ensuring that part of basic training for the forces is firefighting capability and this would help us face down a year like we’ve had, maybe even get a bit ahead of the curve in all of these provinces and territories,” Wall added.
Read more here.
Premiers raise native foster care concerns
Canada's premiers are raising concerns about the high number of aboriginal children in care as they urge the federal government to help them address the issue.
The premiers released a report by their Aboriginal Children in Care Working Group at the Council of the Federation meeting in St. John's, N.L.
It says indigenous kids are over-represented in child welfare systems across Canada.
It calls for more social and economic supports that might improve life for the most at-risk children.
They include poverty reduction strategies, food security measures, better housing and improved mental health and addiction programs.
The report says the premiers invited the federal government to be part of the study but it did not respond.
Read more here.
Child welfare fails high-needs kids: advocate
A report from Manitoba's children's advocate says provincial child welfare has "deteriorated into a chronic state of emergency'' and is failing kids with complex needs.
The report, released Thursday, says about one-third of 10,000 children in government care are high needs, because of childhood trauma including sexual abuse, mental health issues and addiction.
Many of the high-needs children are in government care, not because they need protection, but because their families can't manage them on their own.
The report suggests the province isn't capable of providing the necessary support.
"Manitoba does not have sufficient resources to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.''
The report says Child and Family Services doesn't look to the future, but focuses primarily on keeping kids safe in the short term with expensive emergency placements.
Since there aren't enough spots for children with complex needs, they have ended up in emergency shelters and hotels under the supervision of poorly trained staff. The use of hotels is now banned in the province.
Despite recommendations by the children's advocate in 2012, very little has changed, the report says.
"What was described as an 'unfortunate and unhealthy cycle' in 2012 has deteriorated into a chronic state of emergency in 2015.
Kelly Geraldine Malone is a freelance journalist, podcaster, and radio producer based out of Manitoba, Canada