Hours after he wrapped up a protest for better housing on their First Nation, Bobby Ballantyne awoke to learn his mother and her partner had died in a trailer fire in Grand Rapids, Man.
“I want to believe that it’s not true, but it is true and I can’t do anything about it. I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel, I don’t know what to feel actually, so much stuff is running through my mind, so many emotions are taking over my body,” Bobby Ballantyne said when reached on the Misipawistik Cree Nation by phone Sunday.
Ballantyne said his mother, Michelle Cook, 50, and her partner, David Scott, 48, were killed when the old trailer they were living in caught fire early Saturday morning. A spokesperson for the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“They lived in a trailer that was in desperate need of repairs and she would tell me all the problems all the time when she would come over and visit.”
David’s brother, Wayne Scott, said he and other people from the community cut five holes in the trailer and crawled inside to try to save the couple, but they weren’t successful.
“One of the girls said, ‘I hear them, I hear them, cut right here,’ and so I cut a hole there but I was too late, they went by already.”
He said the front door on the trailer was locked from the inside with a padlock his brother used to secure it.
He said the Grand Rapids Fire Department didn’t come to put the fire out, but wasn’t sure why.
RCMP said two bodies were found after they received a report of a trailer on fire on Beardy Point Road in Grand Rapids around 1:50 a.m. CT Saturday.
Ballantyne wasn’t sure if the trailer had a smoke detector. He said when he arrived after 4 a.m. the trailer had burned to the ground and no fire crews were around.
The fire comes just four days after Ballantyne set up a tent outside the community’s band office to demand better living conditions.
On Friday evening, Ballantyne had been told his protest was successful and a housing committee would be set up. He wants a better house for his children to live in.
Trailer went up ‘like a cardboard box’
The trailer Cook and Scott lived in was old and passed down from Scott’s parents, Ballantyne said. It had no heat and leaked water that caused mould. Cook had to leave the oven open at night to keep the place warm in the winter, Ballantyne said.
He isn’t sure if that’s how the fire started but said it wouldn’t take much for the trailer to go up in flames.
“It’s a trailer, it’s like a cardboard box, right — if you put a match to it, it’s going to go up in flames,” Ballantyne said.
Ballantyne estimated there are about 20 trailers still left on his reserve and he hopes people will be able to move out of them into homes in the future. After his protest, the band gave him a letter agreeing to develop terms of reference for a new housing committee to be created.
But for now, he is grieving the loss of two loved ones he said still had a lot of life left.
“My mom and her partner were very kind humble people. They were harmless. They wouldn’t hurt a fly. They were always happy to see other people and greet other people with smiles.”
Neither the Grand Rapids Fire Department or Misipawistik’s chief could be reached for comment Sunday.
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Edmonton Alberta News Headlines
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Edmonton /ˈɛdməntən/ (About this sound listen) is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta’s central region. The city anchors the north end of what Statistics Canada defines as the “Calgary–Edmonton Corridor”.
The city had a population of 932,546 in 2016, making it Alberta’s second-largest city and Canada’s fifth-largest municipality. Also in 2016, Edmonton had a metropolitan population of 1,321,426, making it the sixth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada. Edmonton is North America’s northernmost city that has a metropolitan population over one million. A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.
Edmonton’s historic growth has been facilitated through the absorption of five adjacent urban municipalities (Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton, Beverly and Jasper Place) and a series of annexations ending in 1982.[ Known as the “Gateway to the North”, the city is a staging point for large-scale oil sands projects occurring in northern Alberta and large-scale diamond mining operations in the Northwest Territories.
Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname “Canada’s Festival City”. It is home to North America’s largest mall, West Edmonton Mall (the world’s largest mall from 1981 until 2004), and Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum.
Further information: History of Edmonton and Timeline of Edmonton history
The earliest known inhabitants settled in the area that is now Edmonton around 3,000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC, when an ice-free corridor opened as the last glacial period ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.
In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area. His expeditions across the Canadian Prairies were mainly to seek contact with the aboriginal population for establishing the fur trade, as competition was fierce between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. By 1795, Fort Edmonton was established on the river’s north bank as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The new fort’s name was suggested by John Peter Pruden after Edmonton, London, the home town of both the HBC deputy governor Sir James Winter Lake, and Pruden.
In 1876, Treaty 6, which includes what is now Edmonton, was signed between the Aboriginal peoples in Canada (or First Nations) and Queen Victoria as Queen of Canada, as part of the Numbered Treaties of Canada. The agreement includes the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River. The area covered by the treaty represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to southern Alberta in 1885 helped the Edmonton economy, and the 1891 building of the Calgary and Edmonton (C&E) Railway resulted in the emergence of a railway townsite (South Edmonton/Strathcona) on the river’s south side, across from Edmonton. The arrival of the CPR and the C&E Railway helped bring settlers and entrepreneurs from eastern Canada, Europe, U.S. and other parts of the world. The Edmonton area’s fertile soil and cheap land attracted settlers, further establishing Edmonton as a major regional commercial and agricultural centre. Some people participating in the Klondike Gold Rush passed through South Edmonton/Strathcona in 1897. Strathcona was North America’s northernmost railway point, but travel to the Klondike was still very difficult for the “Klondikers”, and a majority of them took a steamship north to the Yukon from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jasper Avenue, ca. 1907
Incorporated as a town in 1892 with a population of 700 and then as a city in 1904 with a population of 8,350, Edmonton became the capital of Alberta when the province was formed a year later, on September 1, 1905. In November 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) arrived in Edmonton, accelerating growth.
During the early 1900s, Edmonton’s rapid growth led to speculation in real estate. In 1912, Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River; as a result, the city extended south of the North Saskatchewan River for the first time.
Just prior to World War I, the boom ended, and the city’s population declined from more than 72,000 in 1914 to less than 54,000 only two years later. Many impoverished families moved to subsistence farms outside the city, while others fled to greener pastures in other provinces. Recruitment to the Canadian army during the war also contributed to the drop in population. Afterwards, the city slowly recovered in population and economy during the 1920s and 1930s and took off again during and after World War II.
The Edmonton City Centre Airport opened in 1929, becoming Canada’s first licensed airfield.Originally named Blatchford Field in honour of former mayor Kenny Blatchford, pioneering aviators such as Wilfrid R. “Wop” May and Max Ward used Blatchford Field as a major base for distributing mail, food, and medicine to Northern Canada; hence Edmonton’s emergence as the “Gateway to the North”. World War II saw Edmonton become a major base for the construction of the Alaska Highway and the Northwest Staging Route.
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