As members of the media toured the fire-ravaged neighborhoods of Fort McMurray on May 10, First Nations and other donors reached out with offers of assistance ranging from supplies to shelter, and even to gas.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would visit the area on Friday May 13, and announced on May 11 the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Northern Alberta Wildfires to coordinate federal assistance and recovery efforts.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) pledged support, even as the 229,000-hectare (565,871 acres, or 884 square miles) fire, still out of control, raged toward that province. While 90 percent of the city had been saved, 2,400 buildings in Fort McMurray were damaged or destroyed, The Globe and Mail reported. Infrastructure such as municipal buildings, the hospital and all the city's schools were saved except one that was in the process of being built, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters, according to The Globe and Mail.
“The devastating fire in northern Alberta and the town of Fort McMurray is one of the worst natural disasters in our time,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a statement on May 9. “The images and stories of loss are heartbreaking. Our prayers go out to the families affected by the firestorm. The FSIN wants to thank those that have begun their efforts to assist in this crisis. We want to do whatever we can to help and plan to organize fundraising initiatives this week.”
The Fort McKay First Nation was the first stop for many evacuees. The 417-member community has housed or helped close to 5,000 people and is taking food, clothing, towels, items for infants, feminine products and other items for drop-off at Fort McKay Logistics in Edmonton – 5744 – 67th Avenue, for transport. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), which has many members living in Fort McMurray, has created a drop-off center. The ACFN is located in Fort Chipewyan, about 125 miles north of Fort McMurray, and has welcomed evacuees and returning First Nation members. Donations can be made at the Treaty 8 office, 18178 102nd Avenue.
Enoch Cree Nation, west of Edmonton, offered evacuees free gas.
"I did donate to the Red Cross but I wanted to do more,” station manager Valerie Alexander told CBC News, explaining how she had gotten permission from Chief William Morin. "We needed to do something as a First Nation.”
On an individual level too, indigenous people were stepping up—literally, in the case of Stanley Barkman from Sachigo Lake First Nation in northern Ontario, who pledged to walk from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, to Fort McMurray, a journey of about 1,300 miles. He has started a GoFundMe page, Walking for Fort McMurray, to accept donations for the weeks-long endeavor.
The Red Cross is accepting money at redcross.ca, and Trudeau urged Canadians to give.
“I encourage everyone to make a donation to www.redcross.ca, and help the thousands of displaced residents of Fort McMurray,” Trudeau said in a statement on May 6. “The Government of Canada will match every dollar donated to the Canadian Red Cross in support of the Fort McMurray relief effort. Our commitment will apply to individual charitable donations made within Canada, it will be backdated to May third and will continue until May 31st. There will be no financial cap on the federal government's contribution.
“We applaud the Government of Alberta, who has also agreed to match donations,” Trudeau said. “As a result, for every dollar donated by Canadians, the Red Cross will receive a total of $3.”
A First Nations Fire Relief Fundraiser held at Edmonton City Hall on May 10 accepted new pillows and blankets, new toothbrushes and other toiletries, new socks and underwear, new towels, diapers and baby wipes, shoes and clothing of all sizes, non-perishable food items and bottled water.
In addition the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society is taking both online contributions and donations of new items such as diapers, baby wipes, new towels, toiletries, new socks, underwear and shoes.
Large donations can be made at the Edmonton International Airport. Hanger 2: 3631 - 56 Avenue East.
“The outpouring of goodwill and compassion we have already seen from Canadians across the country has not only been inspirational, but stands as a testament to who we are as a nation,” said Trudeau in his statement. “I would once again like to thank the many first responders who are working tirelessly, day and night, to fight this fire. To those who have lost so much: We are resilient, we are Canadians, and we will make it through this difficult time, together.”