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January 31, 2024
Last year we worked with a number of First Nations and supported them during evacuations, water crises and social crisis both in community and at host sites around the province of Ontario and Manitoba. We extend a heartfelt thank you to these communities and their leadership for trusting us with their people and teaching us many lessons in 2023.
There were many challenges including but not limited to, introducing this new model of Indigenous-led evacuations to traditional service providers. But we as a team at ISN Maskwa can collectively say we rose to every challenge and persevered. Our focus was, and always will be, to do what is right for the First Nations we are supporting and working with.
ISN Maskwa’s goal is to assist First Nations in building trained teams of leaders and Community Support Personnel (“CSP”) to support an Indigenous-led response to emergencies.
For that reason, we employ the very best people; trained, experienced, compassionate and dedicated to serving Indigenous communities. Our team is diverse. Our non-Indigenous members have been chosen for their compassion and understanding. They have skills from their prior careers which they bring to the table and mentor First Nation members with. Conversely, we have mentored our non-Indigenous members by showing them the real challenges Indigenous communities face. In 2023 our non-Indigenous team members often remarked on how much they have learned from the First Nations we have worked with. They have taken this knowledge and shared it in their respective communities. This shared knowledge is truly the first step in truth and reconciliation.
What really stood out in 2023 was how well our CSPs and command team model worked. Our CSP teams are not traditional security guards, even though many are licensed by the province. Our CSPs being First Nations members have shared experiences and relatability with the First Nations we work with. Traditionally municipalities who have hosted First Nations provide outside security often with little or no First Nations members at host sites.
Several times in 2023 we sent our teams into evacuated communities to support those who stayed back in community and to assist with such activities as the flight manifests. We delivered water and firewood, fed the pets left behind and by being there saved a number of lives of vulnerable persons.
In 2023 we mentored Indigenous graduates from our Ontario Incident Management Specialist (“IMS”) Training on incident command by imbedding them in our command teams across multiple host sites.
One significant development was the approval by ISC for the new role of Recreational and Cultural Chief. This is the first Indigenous-specific role on a command team. ISN Maskwa member Brooke McIntosh identified the need for this position during an active evacuation. This role is not a theory-based traditional title. It was created from a need and was successful in practice. It is now a stand-alone position on the Indigenous-led IMS command structure.
2023 saw ISN Maskwa supervisors mentor Peacekeepers in a community, and through this mentorship, were able to identify leaders within the team who developed into supervisors. ISN Maskwa successfully completed the mission of this deployment in the community and continue to be a resource for this First Nation.
Taking all of the lessons from 2023 and incorporating them into our planning for 2024, we believe we will continue to empower our partner First Nations to make all events Indigenous-led. We look forward to 2024.
Written by ISN Maskwa Staff:
Ernie Louttit, Planning and Community Engagement Co-Ordinator
Jane Martynuck, Media Coordinator, Trainer and Investigator