Message from our Member of Parliament
Our community has undergone a great change. Before the fire, we were a buzzing boom-town. We were the go-to destination for Canadians who knew the value of hard work. On a day we will never forget, when the fire approached our city, our lives came to a halt.
The fire forced us to flee the city, it endangered our lives, and it burned many homes. But we survived, and everything that made Fort McMurray great has survived in us. Our city will be remade: Insurance will rebuild our homes, our roads and infrastructure will be repaired with help from the Federal and Provincial governments. The construction boom our city is about to experience will jumpstart our slumping economy. We will emerge from this tragedy stronger than ever.
Major disasters happen every week, across the globe. From those tragedies, we know that periods of great change and great stress can bring out the very worst in people. In moments where human beings are forced to choose between survival and the good of their fellow man, most chose to be selfish and ruthless. In times like this we are tested.
It would have been easy for the evacuees to ignore instructions given by the RCMP. It would have been easy for them to give into their lesser nature by fleeing down the highway when it wasn’t safe. Looting the homes of people who already left the city could have been extremely profitable. I am glad to say that I saw the metal of the people of Fort McMurray and I was not disappointed. The organized and disciplined retreat from the city was a testament to our people, our culture, and our values.
The generosity of Canadians, across this great country, was truly humbling. People from provinces thousands of kilometers away provided their support, and their prayers, to the evacuees of Fort McMurray. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, Canadians pulled together in our hour of need. The Canadian Red Cross received millions of dollars in donations. Though, despite the tremendous amount of support from the rest of Canada, Albertans refused to be outdone.
While refugees from the Fort McMurray fire were trapped on Highway 63, people from southern Alberta loaded their trucks with fuel, water bottles and food to bring comfort and safety to the stranded. There is no doubt in my mind that lives were saved.
Municipalities from all over Alberta also came together in our hour of need. The town and county of Athabasca, the Beaver Lake First Nation, Kikino Métis Settlement, Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement, Plamondon, Grassland, Cold Lake and Bonnyville are just the few of the communities that stepped up and took in evacuees from Fort McMurray. At considerable personal expense, these communities acted quickly and with great enthusiasm welcoming tens of thousands of us.
My office was flooded with offers from Albertans who had empty bedrooms, hotel rooms, and campers to help house the more than 80,000 evacuees. People from as far away as Quebec offered spare rooms in their homes for people affected by the fire.
Words cannot describe how much we appreciate the firefighters and emergency service workers who put their own lives at risk to save our city. During the first day, as the fire encroached on the city, these brave men and women fought fires within a few hundred yards of those who had not yet left the city. Without them, many lives would have been lost. Thank you so much for your time and commitment to our province.
Some of the evacuees were forced to leave so quickly that, when they arrived at the evacuation centers, they and their children only had the clothes on their back. The Canadian Red Cross was there for them: to translate donations into almost immediate assistance; it was an extremely valuable tool. The men and women who work for the Canadian Red Cross should be commended for their tireless efforts.
Our community has undergone a great change, but in many ways we are the same. We have been reminded of the value of our families, the worth of our neighbours, and the importance of our community. This is a moment in history when we were remade into a stronger and more resilient community.