B.C. wildfires: Justin Trudeau defends Ottawa’s decision not to match donations
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has encouraged Canadians to donate to the Red Cross to help British Columbians affected by the devastating wildfires but says his government won’t match cash given by individual donors.
“The Red Cross does great work directly helping so many folks. People who are evacuated, people who need to return home and we’ve worked with [Red Cross] to determine how best to help,” Trudeau told Global BC’s The Morning Show. “We defer to the experts on what contributions to the Red Cross the federal government can best make.”
“We’ve made commitments of about $27 million now, but it will go up perhaps as high as $50 million depending on how many evacuees there are in the coming weeks.”
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While Canada has matched donations for more than a dozen international disasters since the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the federal government has only matched contributions once for a domestic natural disaster — the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., that forced more than 88,000 people from their homes.
He added that Ottawa has helped out in other ways, which included sending in the Canadian army and close collaboration and co-ordination with the province.
“Every situation is different. And in this one, we worked with the province, and we’ve worked with the Red Cross to listen to what they feel the most impactful way to help,” the prime minister said.
Canada has matched almost $800 million in charitable giving by Canadians for roughly a dozen other disasters since 2004, like the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015. In May, the federal government announced it would match donation for the African famine and pledged $2 million to match donations to aid rebuilding efforts following earthquakes in central Italy.
Canadian Red Cross vice-president for British Columbia and Yukon, Kimberley Nemrava, said that promises from the government to match donations can make people more willing to reach for their wallets.
“The feedback I have from donors is often that they like the concept of their funds being doubled,” Nemrava told the Canadian Press.
Ottawa matched $104.5 million in donations to the Canadian Red Cross following the wildfire in Fort McMurray, which destroyed roughly 2,400 homes and buildings.
Over the weekend, Trudeau made a public appeal for people to donate, during a stop in Revelstoke, B.C.
“The federal government is there to help. Canadians are there to help,” Trudeau said, who spent the weekend touring the destruction left by the raging fires.
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Officials in B.C. said Monday that more than 820 fires have scorched about 426,000 hectares since April – marking the third-worst forest fire season in the province’s history. Officials estimate about 6,000 people are still displaced due to evacuation orders.
Currently, the Red Cross is providing $600 to every family displaced, another $600 for those who can’t return home for more than two weeks and $300 per family when they can return.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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