Federal government ministers said Friday emergency operations are going well as wildfires rage in the Northwest Territories and around Kelowna, BC, and pledged full federal support for those affected by the crisis.
“No one will be left behind,” Defense Minister Bill Blair told a news conference.
A wildfire now rages 15 kilometers from the Northwest Territories capital, Yellowknife, territory officials reported Friday afternoon. The territorial government issued an evacuation order for the town on Wednesday and set a Friday noon deadline for residents to leave.
Meanwhile, a wildfire near Kelowna, BC has prompted the township and many surrounding communities to declare states of emergency. The BC Wildfire Service has forecast that the next few days will be the most challenging of the current BC wildfire season.
“This has been an incredibly challenging week for Canadians,” said Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan.
“The stress of leaving home, not knowing if you will be there when you return, is a reality now faced by thousands.”
Earlier this week, the federal government approved the Northwest Territories’ request for federal assistance. Blair told the news conference that the first military evacuation flight took place on Thursday night. He said a C-130 Hercules transport plane flew 79 Yellowknife long-term care residents to Edmonton.
“This is an important contribution that the Canadian Armed Forces can make, because they have fit-for-purpose aircraft that can move people who may not be able to walk on a stretcher or in a wheelchair,” he said.
“They can also provide medical personnel to provide support and assistance to those who need it.”
Blair added that 150 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed to the territory, in addition to the Canadian Rangers already stationed there. He said more military flights will evacuate residents later on Friday.
He said one of those flights will focus on transporting patients from a local hospital to a hospital in Vancouver.
LOOK | Defense minister says focus is on getting people in the Northwest Territories to safety
Transport Minister Pablo Rodríguez said he has requested assistance from all commercial airlines operating in the territory. Sajjan said that Ottawa is working to contract more aircraft to support the military effort.
Sajjan said he does not have a tally of how many people have been evacuated, nor an estimate of the damage the fires have caused.
“One thing I can say is that the evacuation is actually going very well,” he said.
“It’s been very orderly. RCMP hasn’t reported any kind of hiccups arising from the evacuation, and we’ll have a much better idea by the end of today, hopefully what the numbers are.” [are] and also the time it will take.
Rodriguez demanded that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, lift the Canadian news ban from its platforms to allow people to share information about large wildfires.
Rodríguez called the ban “unacceptable.”
Meta began blocking news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all users in Canada earlier this month in response to a law, the Online News Act, which requires internet giants to pay for links to articles. of news. Rodríguez, who was wealth minister before the recent cabinet reshuffle, introduced the law and criticized Meta and Google for blocking news links in response.
“I warned [Meta] during conversations in the past about the risks of blocking news,” he said.
“So I ask you to reverse your decision and allow people to have access to news and information in Canada.”
Meta told Breaking: that he stands by his position, saying that government sites and other sources of reliable information are not prohibited.