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Fire Brigade trains eager Mi’kmaq recruits

Instructors Raymond Lepine and Bryan Deer following a controlled burn with new firefighters Cody Guitard, Roger Barnaby, Dave Condo, Luke Martin, Carlene Isaac, Jacob Arsenault, Dakota Barnaby, Tyrone Metallic, Colleen Methot, Jaygen Bernard, Donna Metallic and Mindy Moffat. (Courtesy Melissa Metallic)

A dozen new firefighters from two Mi’kmaq communities were recently trained with the help of the Kahnawake Fire Brigade (KFB).

From August until December, instructors from the KFB trained the fresh recruits eight hours a day, five days a week for two weeks each month in Listuguj.

“I’m very proud of the guys here and very proud of the department,” said fire chief David Scott. “The guys did really well, I’m really proud that we took this contract. It was a little worrisome because we’ve never done anything this big and I know people were watching us.”

The pilot training program was funded by Indigenous Affairs, and was developed by the Fire Brigade in partnership with the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) – Canada’s leading public safety educator.

“We feel (they) suit our needs and we’ve been with them for years and years and years,” said Scott of the JIBC.

“We’ve done other small little evaluations and training, but this was the first big one we’ve done from A to Z to fully certify and recognize firefighters. With this certification they have, they can go anywhere they want and get a job. They can go in Quebec, in Mexico – it’s recognized internationally.”

The group graduated from the training courses on December 16 with certificates in fire fighter 1, hazardous materials awareness, hazmat operations and first responder training.

Donna Metallic and her son Tyrone were among the 10 community members from Listuguj to complete the training.

Mother-son duo Donna and Tyrone Metallic were among the dozen students from Listuguj and Gesgapegiag to receive training by Kahnawake Fire Brigade instructors. (Courtesy Donna Metallic)
Mother-son duo Donna and Tyrone Metallic were among the dozen students from Listuguj and Gesgapegiag to receive training by Kahnawake Fire Brigade instructors. (Courtesy Donna Metallic)

“We were trained by the finest firefighters from your community fire brigade,” Donna told The Eastern Door. “It was hard, but very rewarding and we learned more than what the program required. The experience and knowledge of our trainers made it high standards for us.”

The former police officer was interested in taking the training after missing being out of uniform.

“I missed being a public servant in the servicing people in emergencies,” said Donna. “I’ve always been passionate about helping people, mainly in emergencies and safety.”

She said her son ended up being one the top students in the group.

“I guess he was made for public service as well. I raised him as being a police officer so he knows the importance of public safety,” said Donna.

(Courtesy Donna Metallic)
(Courtesy Donna Metallic)

Like Donna, Dave Condo also has a background as a police officer. He was one of two community members from Gesgapegiag to take part in the training.

“We’re a small department that still needs some loving towards equipment and training,” he said. “I’m a person that likes to work and help my community.”

The training is something Listuguj has been deferring for nearly four years.

“Our department was an aging department. There were a lot of upgrades that we needed and pretty much the only time we did any upgrades was once a year during competition. In the past couple of years, we’ve been slowly building it up again bringing everything up to par. One of the main things was getting new recruits,” said Listuguj fire chief Garry Caplin.

As result of the training, the number of volunteer firefighters in Listuguj nearly doubled.

“We’re already feeling the impact. We had two non-threatening, but they were still structural fires in December,” Melissa Metallic, assistant director of Public Security for the Listuguj band council.

“Prior to this training, we had approximately 14 firefighters and sometimes they weren’t always available, so we had low numbers for calls.”

All 12 students completed and passed the training. Melissa credits the high pass rate to the instructors coming from another First Nations fire department.

(Courtesy Donna Metallic)
(Courtesy Donna Metallic)

“They bonded so well with the instructors. That is probably the factor that no one dropped out of the course because they relate so well with the instructors at the KFB and maybe the Native factor helped with it because they had a really good relationship the whole way through the program,” she said.

Caplin agreed.

“The instructors did an excellent job. They got along great with students. They weren’t just going through the motions and just trying to get it over with. They took the time to help each individual or anybody that had any trouble,” he said.

They set the standards. They are good role models, I would say. I find Kahnawake is always there ready to share their knowledge and answering any questions we have.”

For Scott, taking on the contract for the pilot training program was about helping where they can.

“We’re lucky in Kahnawake that across Canada, we’re in the top two, if not the number one in Canada for First Nations fire departments in regards to equipment, training and everything,” he said.

“We’re trying to help and the keyword here is help. We’re trying to help them, we do not charge what other consultants charge, we charge at a lower rate.”

Scott said the KFB is hoping to pursue other training opportunity in the future to help other First Nations’ fire departments throughout the province, and beyond.

“The Justice Institute is looking at the model that we put together for the training because they’re involved with some First Nations in British Columbia and it’s not going as fast as they would like, so they were looking at the schedule we came up with and thinking of adopting it to their needs over there,” said Scott.

jessicad@easterndoor.com
Jessica Deer
Jessica Deer is the deep-thinking, quick-witted (and perhaps heavily caffeinated) columnist. She began her career at The Eastern Door back in 2008 as a summer student. In addition to writing about youth leadership, ranting about Indigenous politics, as well as raising awareness of cultural appropriation issues in The Caffeinated Potadoe, Jessica has been a staff reporter since 2015 and does on-call layout and graphic design. She also updates the website, so if something is broken... it is probably her fault.
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