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9 die in house fire in Ontario aboriginal community

March 30, 2016

PIKANGIKUM, Ontario (AP) — Nine people died in a house fire in an aboriginal community in northwestern Ontario, officials said Wednesday.

Robert Nault, the member of Parliament for the area that includes Pikangikum First Nation, said the dead include three children and all are believed to be from the same family.

Ontario Provincial Police Const. Diana Cole said fire broke out late Tuesday night in the remote community near the Manitoba-Ontario border.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and police remain on the scene.

Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents First Nations in northern Ontario, said he spoke Wednesday with Pikangikum Chief Dean Owen, who sounded exhausted.

“The shock of losing so many people in one tragic event is overwhelming,” Fiddler said.

Joseph Magnet, a constitutional law professor at the University of Ottawa who has worked with the community of about 2,100 in the past, said he has been in all the houses there.

“They’re all wildly overcrowded,” Magnet said. “They’re in outrageous disrepair. They don’t have indoor plumbing. They don’t have adequate water. They wouldn’t meet anybody’s fire code regulations.′

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to the community and said his government will work to improve conditions for aboriginal people.

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