'A chance to say goodbye': Community of KI to hold funeral for 5 victims in tragic house fire

The remains of the five victims who died during a tragic May 2 house fire in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, also known as Big Trout Lake, were transported to the Sioux Lookout Funeral Home on Thursday morning.

According to a written release from the community, a postmortem examination was completed in Toronto on Friday, and the cause of death was identified as smoke inhalation.

A wake is expected to be held on Thursday morning at the Cavalry Baptist Church, and from there, the victim’s bodies will be transported to the community where a funeral will be held for all five family members on Friday at 1 p.m.

“You never know how long it will take to get one person’s remains back to the community, let alone five,” Chief Donny Morris said. “Now that the transportation logistics have been sorted, the community and the families will have the chance to say goodbye and pay their respects to the deceased this week.”

‘Lots of trauma’ in KI

The MPP for Kiiwetinoong, Sol Mamakwa, said he made a visit to the community two days after the fire and spent some time with the families that are affected and some of the parents of the children.

“It’s very devastating for sure, and [there’s] lots of trauma in the community,” Mamakwa told CBC News. “When [people in the community] can’t function to eat or to even drink anything, it’s trauma.”

When he went to visit the school, he said, they were holding a blessing ceremony while removing desks and other belongings of the children who died in the tragedy.

“The school, principal, teachers, staff — I know they were struggling … I could tell, I could feel it,” he said.

Since KI is a close-knit community, Mamakwa said, a lot of children and a lot of families are affected, and finding a way to support them is something that needs to be specifically addressed.

“For example, the students, the children, the youth that were friends with these children … how do we support them?” he said, adding that the community needs proper mental health services and access to them at home.

“[It’s] not enough to just feel bad or have moments of silence,” he said.  

He also questioned how to reduce the numbers of deadly fires.  

“When we talk about fire prevention, infrastructure for good roads, also even fire suppressant equipment and very good water pressure hydrants,” he said, “that’s something that’s very limiting for communities in the north, and that’s something we need to look at.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said he’s been in touch with the chief of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation and stated that the community would get whatever mental health supports it needs.

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