The Waswanipi band was in for a surprise after a series of fires forced them to take a closer look at their new insurance policy.

A fire in the community’s cafeteria put the fryer out of commission and cost the band a couple of thousand dollars. A house caught fire with $ 12,000 in damages and a trailer home also went up in a blaze, costing thousands more.

Imagine the surprise when band staff found out none of the fires were covered under a new insurance policy set up for the Cree communities a year ago. That’s because the deductible for band property under the new policy is $50,000.

Jack Blacksmith, who is handling the insurance file for the Cree Regional Authority, said the Cree communities will pay $1.1 million in insurance fees this year to Secours Assurances Generales, a Val d’Or broker. So far this year, Secours paid only $14,000 back to Crees in insurance claims, he said.

The insurance covers everything from $227 million in band-owned buildings and housing, to community garages and vehicles, employee theft and firefighters’ accidents.

Blacksmith said the premiums and deductible are high because of the poor fire record in the Cree communities. Crees could have gotten a deductible of $10,000, but that would have cost 25 per cent more in insurance fees, he said.

Because the company paid out so little in claims, next year Blacksmith expects to see Cree premiums drop about 10 per cent. “Our picture wasn’t very good so we didn’t have much leverage. In the past, there were a lot of fires. That’s what they were scared of. This year, it’s a lot better for us.”