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Family in remote northern Ont. reeling after daughter killed in fire, home destroyed


A family in the remote First Nation community in Peawanuck, Ont., is dealing not only with the death of their young daughter, but the loss of everything they owned in a Jan. 28 house fire.

Ten people lived in the Wabano family home. JC, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, was killed in the fire. The family is now temporarily living in the band office.

Conrad Iahpail, left, holds CJ, while Jennifer Wabano holds JC in this undated family photo. (Supplied)

Weenusk First Nation is an isolated Cree community in the Kenora District, which is part of the Mushkegowuk Council, about 35 kilometres from the Winisk River's end in Hudson Bay. Its population is less than 300 people.

Retired OPP sergeant Randy Cota and his wife Betty Crawford have set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of helping the family find a new place to live

"Beautiful people," Cota said of the family, who are suffering on many levels following the tragedy.

He said in a community where everyone knows everyone else, the fire sent a "ripple effect that goes all the way down the coastline."

"We'd really like to see them get (help.) They're living at the band office right now, with no privacy," he said.

"It's just devastating, you know, to lose a little daughter and then to be homeless with only the clothes on your back. (But) that’s the true meaning community and caring for ones that are less fortunate. We have to step up, right?"

JC Iahpail, the 10-year-old victim of a house fire Jan. 28 in Peawanuck, Ont., is seen in this photo with her mom, Jennifer Wabano. (Supplied)

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus tweeted about the tragedy on Monday.

"My deepest sympathies to the Wabano family who lost a child in a house fire this past weekend," Angus said.

Fire victim JC Iahpail, 10, is seen with her cousin, Gage Wabano. (Supplied)

"There was no fire fighting services in the community of Peawanuck. This is (a) tragedy that cannot be allowed to happen again."

And the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority appealed for donations to help the family.

"We are reaching out to ask if anyone would be willing to donate clothing, jackets, and boots to assist them during this difficult time," the group said on its Facebook page.

And Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, sent this statement to CTV News:

"Tragically, a young girl lost her life in a house fire this past weekend in Peawanuck, and my thoughts are with the family and entire community following this heartbreaking loss.

On Sunday, I spoke with Chief Hunter to express my condolences and confirm that Indigenous Services Canada is available to help coordinate supports to the family and community. Our officials are in contact with Chief Hunter and Peawanuck and working with all partners in the region, including Weeneebayko Area Health Authority. We will provide more updates as they become available."

Cota said the local support is growing but he’s hoping more people will pitch in to help the family recover.

"They're having a tough time," he said.

"Not only do they have to deal with having no house and no home, they also have to deal with the loss of one of their daughters."

"They need finances to be able to get established to get somewhere to stay. So we're hoping … we can actually make a difference here and get them established again. And so they don't have to worry about a home, at least."

You can donate to the family here. Top Stories

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