Canadian Forest Service Publications

The role of social support and place attachment during hazard evacuation: the case of Sandy Lake First Nation, Canada. Asfaw, H. W., McGee, T.K., & Christianson, A. C. (2019). Environmental Hazards, 18(4), 361-381.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40428

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1608147

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Abstract

Using a qualitative community-based research approach, this study examined the role of family, social support and place attachment during a wildfire evacuation of Indigenous residents in remote Northern Ontario. A total of 56 interviews and two focus group discussions were completed with evacuated band members, those who stayed behind, and people who had a management role during the evacuation. In order to obtain diverse perspectives, two focus groups were conducted with different groups, the first with councillors and elders and the second with youths. The results from the interviews and the focus groups illustrated that evacuation experiences of residents were affected by a range of factors, which overall compromised the resilience of the community to the disruptive impacts of the evacuation. More specifically, the study has shown that scattering residents to twelve hosting communities throughout Ontario and Manitoba caused four major problems: communication and information-sharing were more difficult, families were separated, community cohesion and support services were disrupted, and residents’ sense of place attachment was impacted. These findings contribute to a robust understanding of the social and cultural factors influencing wildfire evacuation experiences of Indigenous people and how these influence the ability of residents to cope with or adapt to evacuation-related disruptions. Evacuation planning that takes into account the unique socio-cultural characteristics and vulnerabilities of First Nations can minimise the adverse consequences of hazard evacuations and enhance resilience in the face of disruptions.

Plain Language Summary

This study examined the role of family, social support and place attachment during a wildfire evacuation of Indigenous residents of Sandy Lake First Nation in Northern Ontario. Fifty-six interviews and two focus groups were conducted. The first focus group was with councillors and Elders, and the second with youths. The results illustrated that a range of factors compromised the resilience of the community to the disruptive impacts of the evacuation. The study has shown that scattering residents across hosting communities in Ontario and Manitoba caused problems such as communication difficulties, separation of families, disruption of community cohesion and support services and an impacted sense of place attachment. Evacuation planning needs to consider the unique socio-cultural characteristics and vulnerabilities of First Nations communities to minimize adverse consequences and enhance resilience when faced with disruptions.