Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu visited Ashcroft on August 8, to see at first-hand the damage on the Ashcroft Reserve and meet with members of the Ashcroft Indian Band.
“He took his own tour of the Reserve and talked to a few people there, then came down to the Emergency Operation Centre,” says AIB chief Greg Blain.
“We had a chat about the fire and its effects, the residences lost. He asked if INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada] had come out, and was glad to hear they had. He made some promises and commitments to help us rebuild.”
Blain anticipates a shortfall of several million dollars between what will be covered and what the Band will have to pay for. “Fencing alone will cost a lot. And before we can do that we need to have the boundaries surveyed. The cemetery will also be a challenge.”
He adds that funding had already been secured for construction of a six-unit Elders’ centre and residence on the site, and that they hope to have that completed before winter. “That will help a couple of people who lost their homes.”
Funding had also been secured for the development of playing fields on the Reserve, but that has been suspended. “We can’t go ahead with that while people don’t have homes.”
Of the meeting with Sidhu, Blain says it was “very positive. It gave him a chance to view the area and the damage.”
After meeting with Blain, Sidhu met with Ashcroft mayor Jack Jeyes, councillor Barbara Roden, and deputy corporate officer Wayne Robinson at the Village Office. He heard about the challenges the Village had faced during and after the fire, as well as its needs going forward, and promised to provide whatever assistance he could.
After his visit, Sidhu said that “It is in the face of a crisis like these wildfires and their impact — loss of homes, pervasive smoke, people forced from their communities — that we realize how truly fortunate we are to have the services of dedicated first responders, mayors, councillors and municipal workers, First Nation leaders, local firefighters, police, our military, and volunteer workers at emergency shelters.
“The people of this riding, this province, and throughout this country have always come together to help one another in times of need, and for that I am always grateful.”