Chief April Martel with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Photo: NDP
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and the Green Party of Canada are urging the federal government to provide financial assistance to NWT residents displaced by wildfires.
NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane told a news conference on Sunday night that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had not committed financial assistance to NWT evacuees. She said while the prime minister promised the federal government would prioritize ensuring NWT residents’ safety, he did not mention financial supports.
In an NDP press release, Singh said the NWT – as well as BC– will need financial assistance from Canada to cover the costs associated with wildfires.
“The federal government must step in and do its part to support evacuees and communities,” Singh was quoted as saying.
“People and community leaders are dealing with the stress of this horrible situation —they should not have to fend for themselves. The federal government must assure communities that they won’t have to be on their own to rebuild and support is on the way.”
Singh visited the NWT earlier this summer, including touring Kátł’odeeche First Nation where he witnessed the wreckage caused by a wildfire in May. The fire damaged several structures, including homes and the First Nation’s band office. The First Nation and Hay River were evacuated for a second time earlier this month due to a separate wildfire.
Throughout the summer, Singh has called on the federal government to increase funds for housing and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
In Monday’s release, Singh encouraged Prime Minister Trudeau to visit the First Nation and other communities affected by wildfires once the crisis is over.
“They will need support from the federal government to rebuild, but also to better prepare for future climate disasters,” Singh was quoted as saying.
Green Party calls for ‘equal financial assistance’
On Tuesday, the federal Green Party similarly pressured the federal government to ensure that all NWT evacuees receive emergency financial assistance.
So far, the territorial government has provided no supports for evacuees who arranged their own travel or accomodations, or evacuated prior to the official order.
On Tuesday afternoon, NWT finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said she recognizes the distress over the lack of financial aid for people who have incurred costs related to evacuation. She said her department is hastening to “run options” to roll out more help.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that the people who fled Yellowknife, Hay River or other areas at risk with their own vehicles or before an evacuation order was given are now being told that their expenses won’t be covered,” Green Party Deputy Leader Jonathan Pedneault was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s release.
“Nobody should be penalized for not waiting until an evacuation order was given or for using their own vehicle. If anything, they should be rewarded for lessening the burden on the authorities.”
The Green Party urged the federal government to offer support through Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements – used to financially assist provincial or territorial governments in the event of large-scale natural disasters.