Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/4/2012 (3382 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brandon school officials have apologized to the Grand Rapids community for a massive fire that wiped out 43,000 hectares of land.
A Manitoba Conservation investigation determined the fire was started accidentally by a student in the Brandon School Division’s Eco Odyssey program, while on a school expedition. Results of the investigation were released in 2009.
Forests were destroyed, animals lost and now, years later, the trapline for Misipawistik Cree Nation is still greatly affected.
"They’ve lost a lot of the animals that would be in that area," said BSD trustee Jim Murray. "Two of their primary trapping animals — the martin and the fisher — are very, very scarce there now, as are the moose and that sort of thing, because obviously there’s not much for them to eat in the area."
As an act of reconciliation, division officials met with representatives of Manitoba Conservation, the Grand Rapids Trappers Association and the Misipawistik Cree Nation near the scene of the fire on Wednesday.
"We certainly expressed our regret for the loss and for the hardship that it has caused them," Murray said. "It’s had a tremendous impact on them."
Division chair Mark Sefton said it was important for the officials to get together to talk about the loss the community experienced. It is estimated that it will take 30 to 50 years for the area to reforest to the way it was.
"Reconciliation was a very important thing to them and we respect that," Sefton said. "So we talked about ways that we could move forward from here."
The fire started on May 28, 2008, about 40 kilometres north of Grand Rapids. The Eco Odyssey group was on a four-day caving expedition in the area.
Students were directed by teacher David Barnes, who developed the Eco Odyssey program, to burn bathroom debris, and as the Brandon Sun reported in 2009, Manitoba Conservation came to the conclusion that a fire was accidentally sparked after some debris got away from a student.
At that time, while he was not surprised at the conclusion reached by Manitoba Conservation, Barnes said he didn’t believe the group was to blame for the blaze.
Manitoba Conservation decided it would not seek any financial compensation from the school division to reclaim any portion of the $4.5 million in taxpayer dollars needed to bring the fire under control.
"Even though the source of the fire has been put down as human cause, there was no malice in whatever happened," Murray said.
The Eco Odyssey high school course is no longer offered in the division.
Murray said it was a productive meeting, one that they had been trying to arrange for quite some time.
"I think we left that meeting with the intention of having future meetings with them and continuing our relationship with the Grand Rapids Trappers Association and with the Misipawistik Cree Nation."