NIFSC Team Information

The NIFSC is made up of a project management team and has the support of its Board of Directors, a National Advisory Committee (NAC) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

Management Team

Blaine Wiggins
Senior Director IFMS

From the Bay of Quinte Mohawks in Ontario, and raised in the interior of British Columbia, Blaine Wiggins is committed to improving safety in First Nations communities. Blaine has led regional and national organizations to bring awareness and support measured progress to address legislative, policy, capacity and resource gaps in First Nations fire and emergency services.

With an extensive emergency services background in wildfire, paramedic, municipal firefighting, and disaster emergency management, Blaine has also worked as a Chief Fire & EMS Officer. His experience also includes community evacuations, pandemic and floods incidents, and major emergency wildfire events including the 2009 fatal fire in Australia.

Blaine’s professional experience is complemented by credentials in public administration, computer science, emergency management, extensive fire service credentials and a Master’s Degree in Justice and Public Safety.

Brian Statts
Regional Collaboration & Strategic Initiatives

Brian Staats is from Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawk and a Canadian Registered Safety Professional.

Prior to joining the NIFSC, Brian was the Director of Operations at the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC) from 2005 to 2022. His portfolio included managing six OFNTSC core programs including: Infrastructure Specialists; First Nation Housing Policy Coordinator; Operations & Maintenance; Environment; Emergency Management Planning and Fire Safety.

He managed 57 employees – OFNTSC Administration Support Staff, Contractual/Part-Time staff/Summer Students and technical support to the OFNTSC Engineering Program; OFNTSC Director of Finance; OFNTSC Human Resources; OFNTSC Communications Manager and the OFNTSC Executive Director.

He also worked as the Fire Safety Officer with the OFNTSC from October 1995 to 2005 and was the Ontario Region Fire Safety Officer with ISC (INAC) from 1986 to 1995.

Laurie Sallis
Deputy Director Partnerships & Population Services

Laurie Sallis came to the NIFSC as the NIRS as the National Incident Reporting System and External Relations Coordinator, thru her work she grew into the new role as Director of Partnerships and Service.
Laurie has an extensive background in Executive Administration, working in industries as varied as Corrections to Co-op Housing and Aboriginal Family Services to CN Rail.

She also adds her knowledge gained from living in different remote communities across Canada and her volunteerism on various committees.

Laurie has become the first to be OCAP certified within NIFSC and hopes to bring that awareness to all aspects of future development within the organization.

Her family is Coast Salish, Wolf Clan, and part of the Lyackson First Nation, presently based in Chemainus on Vancouver Island she currently resides on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in Vancouver.

In her free time, you can find her reading or painting on the ancestral shores of Whoi Whoi (X̱wáýx̱way), now called Stanley Park.

Len Garis
Director of Research, Contracted

Len Garis is the Director of Research for the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council.
He is also the Senior Advisor for the Centre for Social Data Insights and Innovation at Statistics Canada, a retired Fire Chief for the City of Surrey B.C.

An Adjunct Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice & Associate to the Centre for Social Research at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), Associate Scientist Emeritus, BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, a member of the Affiliated Research Faculty at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and a faculty member of the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Len currently resides in Coquitlam.

Kari Lentowicz
Director of Program Delivery, Contracted

Kari is responsible for strategic and operational oversight of the Indigenous Fire Marshal Service (IFMS). She has over 15 years of experience in the field of emergency management combined as well as university education in science and disaster and emergency management.

Kari holds both Project Management and Environmental Professional certifications as well as a Level 1 in Industrial Firefighting. She is currently a trainer in first aid and mine rescue and is a volunteer firefighter in her home community.

Kari has extensive experience in project management, lean systems, emergency preparedness and response, auditing and assessments, training, as well as quality management systems.

As the managing director of both a non-profit and a charity, she has gained extensive experience in public speaking, community engagement, and measures to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion. With her experience working and living in First Nations communities, Kari has developed a passion to build capacity and increase sustainability within First Nations communities across Canada.

Kari is a Cree First Nations woman from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and resides in Treaty 10 Territory – home of the Rocky Cree – in Northeastern Saskatchewan.

NIFSC Advisory Bodies

Board of Directors

President

Michelle Vandevord

Saskatchewan Representative

Michelle Vandevord (Day Star Woman) is an active member of the Muskoday First Nation Volunteer Fire Department and is the longest serving female firefighter in the department’s history as well as its first female captain. She started her career in Prince Albert as an officer delivering fire prevention programs to communities and is now the executive director of Saskatchewan First Nation Emergency Management (SFNEM) in Prince Albert. She is a member of the Saskatchewan Fire Chiefs Public Education committee and was recognized by her inclusion in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Rising Star Program. She lives in her community of Muskoday First Nation and is the mother of three daughters and three adopted sons. She is a very proud Kookum to four smart, handsome and funny grandsons.

Secretary/Treasurer

Allan Peters

Collaboration Director

Allan Peters is from Elsipogtog, NB. His emergency services career spans over two decades and includes service as a paramedic, ambulance chief and firefighter. In addition to his role with AFAC, Allan is a New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs board member. He applies his fire investigation and inspection expertise in support of improving fire safety in Indigenous communities. Allan loves the sense of achievement from his work and the people that he meets. He lives with his wife and their two dogs.

Melvin McLeod

Ontario Representative

Melvin McLeod lives in Nipissing First Nation, located just west of North Bay, Ontario. He has served Nipissing First Nation Fire Service for almost 30 years. Melvin is proud to work with the Ontario Native Fire Fighters Society (ONFFS) and the AFAC Board, helping to undertake meaningful work. He is grateful for his four children and supportive wife, who enables him to be away from home when duty calls and supports his practice of traditional harvesting activities for moose, deer, and fish.

Ashley O’Neil

Wildfire Representative

Ashley O’Neil is Ktunaxa Nation on her mother’s side and Metis/Mohawk on her father’s side. She grew up in the Columbia Valley and lives on the Akisqunk reservation located in Windermere/Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia. She is a band member of Aqam First Nation located in Cranbrook, British Columbia.

 Ashley started firefighting 15 years ago as a structural firefighter in her hometown and has been a structural firefighter in BC, Saskatchewan and Montana, USA. In 2018, she was introduced to wildland firefighting and became a firefighter, crew leader, Strick team leader, company manager of ’Neill Consulting Ltd., medic, danger tree assessor and an instructor for wildfire and many other courses in wildfire and forestry training. She worked in the Cariboo and Kootenay region providing training and recruiting in Indigenous communities.

Ashley is training to become a burn boss, and in 2020, she started a company called AshFireWear that designs and manufactures female firefighting clothing.

Vice President

Anthony Moore

British Columbia Representative

Anthony Moore comes from the Nisga’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw, located in the Northwest Coast of BC. He is currently employed by Nisga’a Lisims Government as the Emergency Response Services manager. He has been a part of the Gitwinksihlkw Fire Department since 1998 and is a Licensed Emergency Medical Responder. Anthony graduated from the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Responder certificate programs and is continuing his professional development pursuing a Health & Safety Professional certificate from British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

William ‘Billy’ Moffat

Quebec Representative

William Moffat is a Mi’gmaq First Nation from Listuguj, Quebec. A firefighter since 2001, he is passionate about supporting others in achieving excellence. Billy uses his expertise to assist departments and communities in proposal writing and has successfully attained funding and services. He began his career with the Amerindain Police Service in March 1982. He served as a police officer for several years in First Nation communities of Listuguj, Waskaganish and Wemindji. Billy has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (2018), the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal (2012) and the Police Exemplary Service Medal (30 years). He takes pride in community-based practices and enjoys serving all First Nations communities.

Erin Myers

Metis National Council Representative

Erin Myers represents the Métis Nation through her role as the Director of Environment, Climate Change and Emergency Management for the Métis National Council. Her role as Director is to advocate nationally and internationally for the inclusion of the Métis in program and policy development, to ensure that the Métis Nation has an active role in environment and emergency management dialogues, and to support Governing Members in advancing their environmental priorities.

Prior to this role, Ms. Myers led the Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program for 13 years, which supports First Nation and Inuit communities in leading their own research to minimize the impacts of climate change and advance Indigenous Climate Leadership.

Ms. Myers is an “Honorary” member of the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement, and most importantly, she is a mother to Gavin and Cullen who remind her to walk gently and respectfully on Mother Earth.

 

Irving LeBlanc

Assembly of First Nations Representative

 

Executive Director

Nathan Wright

Nathan Wright is a Mohawk, turtle clan from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.

Over the course of his 18-year career, Nathan Wright has been humbled by the trust and support given by First Nation leadership within the regions of Ontario, Yukon and nationally in various senior executive management roles. He has done his utmost to uphold the principles and values of what it is to be an Indigenous person leading complex initiatives to advance the interests of the individuals and organizations he has served.

Nathan has focused his professional career, on supporting elected leadership in executive management, policy coordination, facilitation of a common voice, and as a political strategist for First Nation communities. He has experience working for First Nations in policy and program development as well as establishing and maintaining key relationships with all levels of Government and the private sector. During his time at the Assembly of First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario, he is known as a results-oriented, decisive leader with proven success in bringing stability and building capacity for Indigenous organizations and First Nation governments through governance, policy development communications strategies.

 Nathan is also currently the principal owner of Wright Strategies. Wright Strategies serves many clients across the country providing services in facilitation, executive management, government relations and matters requiring strategic planning.

In his free time, Nathan enjoys running, spending time with his family, travelling and cooking. Also, Nathan volunteers as a coach for First Nation youth in both basketball and football.

Edward Landriult

Emergency Medical Services Representative

Edward brings 35 years of teaching and hands-on experience in EMS with 24 years of experience as a Paramedic, EMS Training Officer, and College Instructor; and 15 years as the Regional Training Coordinator for the Province of Ontario. He retired in February 2021.

As a Regional Training Coordinator, Edward was directly responsible for the oversight, development, and delivery of the Emergency First Response Program for the First Nation communities in the Province of Ontario.  This work included the management of a $300,000 budget and the development of instructors. Edward has also been involved with notable organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and he has maintained his credentials and is actively teaching within First Nation Communities and City Police and Fire Services.

Edward has also taught and coordinated the Paramedic program for CTS College in Sault Ste. Marie which had a First Nations focus graduating 14 paramedics, and nine who received their Paramedic License from the Province of Ontario in the first year. Edward is certified to train all levels of first responders up to and including Primary Care Paramedic. He received the Governor Generals’ EMS Exemplary Service Award in 2016.

James Smarch

Yukon Territory Representative

 

Board Objectives

  • Utilize Indigenous collaboration in all components of the development and design of the NIFSC.
  • Create a sustainable funding model to ensure the NIFSC is viable into the future.
  • Collaborate with National Indigenous Organizations.
  • Create a formal organization that has the security of government support.
  • Transition the NIFSC portfolio from Indigenous Services Canada to Public Safety Canada.
  • Establish a sustainable and effective Indigenous governance structure.
  • Ensure the NIFSC is free of political interference and able to pursue a meaningful Indigenous public safety agenda.

National Advisory Committee

The role of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) is to advise the AFAC on the NIFSC governance structure, mandate, scope of authority, and scope of programs and services.

Mandate

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) demonstrates leadership by collaboratively providing concrete governance, organizational development and related advice to the AFAC to support the creation of the NIFSC.

Membership

  • The NAC is composed of 10 individuals who represent Indigenous organizations or act independently.
  • The NAC provides a seat for a presiding Elder who contributes to the group as a full member.
  • The NAC includes three seats for National Indigenous Organizations (NIO’s), including the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Métis National Council (MNC) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).
  • Two seats are occupied by young Indigenous leaders who have working knowledge of governance related topics.
    Four members are subject matter experts who have credible affiliations to support the work of the NAC.
  • The NAC has instituted a no proxy rule and will ensure that absent members have been provided with a written update within 10 days of the meeting.

Technical Advisory Committee

The role of the Technical Advisory Committee is to support the establishment of national Indigenous fire service standards, support the direction and parameters of research, identify emerging public safety issues and provide a national forum for Indigenous fire service to collaborate and share information. The TAC is the first forum that allows all Indigenous fire service organizations to collaborate.

The TAC has evolved with the development of the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC). The project provides open invitations to participate in the continued development and enhancement of Indigenous fire service standards, steer research and recommend the development of NIFSC programs.

From the beginning, AFAC committed to ongoing engagement and collaboration with regional and national Indigenous organizations to support the design and development of the NIFSC. These commitments were formally made before funding was secured by AFAC to initiate the NIFSC.

The following Indigenous organizations have an open invitation to participate with the TAC:

  • First Nations Emergency Services Society of BC FNESS (BC)
  • Technical Services Alberta TSAG (AB)
  • Prince Albert Grand Council/Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management PAGC/SFNEM (SK)
  • Ontario First Nations Technical Advisory Committee OFNTSC (ON)
  • Nunavut Fire Marshal Office (NT)
  • First Nations National Building Officers Association FNNBOA (National Organization)
  • Assembly of First Nations AFN Housing & Infrastructure (National Organization)
  • Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada AFAC (National Organization)
The Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) is a united body of regional Indigenous emergency and fire service organizations from across Canada. Each regional organization nominates a representative to sit on the AFAC Board of Directors.

History of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC)

The Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) was founded on September 19, 1991 in Portage La Prairie, MB when a group of Indigenous firefighters decided to form a national Aboriginal firefighters association. The association has worked for many years to research and raise awareness of the fire service challenges facing our Indigenous communities.

The association was established to:

  • Represent the interests of these associations nationally.
  • Assist in the exchange of information.
  • Support the implementation of services.
  • Promote national standards in fire prevention, education and suppression within Indigenous communities in Canada.

Four Priorities of AFAC

  • Fire prevention.
  • Advocate for legislative standards
  • Fire Service operations standards.
  • National coordination of fire and emergency services in Indigenous communities.
This strategic approach allows Indigenous communities to close the fire service gap to that of non-Indigenous communities and reach a comparable service level. To achieve these results, AFAC works in collaboration with federal and provincial governments, national fire service organizations and other Indigenous organizations.