Question Period—Public Safety

Assistance for Victims of Fire in Fort McMurray

May 4, 2016


The Honourable Senator Douglas Black :

Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate.

It's with grave concern and terrible sadness that I rise to address the devastating situation currently unfolding in my home province of Alberta. As we have all heard in this chamber this afternoon, the entire city of Fort McMurray has been abandoned. People have left their homes and their valuables in the largest evacuation in Alberta's history. Neighbourhoods are burning and are destroyed. Businesses are being lost, and public spaces are being destroyed. The airport is now at risk.

I am sure all honourable senators join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to those impacted.

Senator Harder, I understand the Prime Minister has spoken with Premier Notley. Would you please inform the Senate and all Canadians what federal resources have been or will be deployed to help the people of Fort McMurray?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I want to thank the honourable senator for his question and express, as the house and this chamber already have, that the thoughts of Canadians are with the residents of Fort McMurray, the people of Alberta and, indeed, all Canadians. I am particularly bearing in mind the first responders who are dealing so effectively with an incredibly volatile situation.

As the Senate will know, the Province of Alberta has requested federal assistance, including air assets to support evacuations, firefighting and delivery of essential aid. An MOU with the Department of National Defence was signed only hours ago. I can confirm that the government is providing assistance in these areas and others.

The Government Operations Centre, which is the coordinating mechanism for emergency response, is well advanced in the staging of resources and pre-deployment and deployment of all the assets available countrywide, both Government of Canada assets and others.

The Minister of Public Safety is in active contact with his provincial counterparts and members of the region, as well as the President of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

Local RCMP and support members from detachments throughout Alberta are fully involved and supporting the search and evacuation efforts as directed by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo's emergency operations centre, and the Government of Canada is committed to providing assistance both immediately and in the longer term.

Using the Federal Emergency Response Plan, the Government Operations Centre brings together provinces, territories and key federal departments and agencies to assess the risks that fire events pose to Canadians, critical infrastructure and, of course, the economy, and to develop plans to address these issues. That is all happening actively at this moment.

This is a very evolving situation. I would be happy to update this chamber on a regular basis as the situation evolves from emergency to full response.