‘A Helping Hand’

‘Oilsands critic lauds companies for helping Fort McKay ‘First Nation’ during Fort McMurray evacuation’

“Dr. John O’Connor is known for raising concerns about the health impact of oilsands development on ‘indigenous’ people.

“But now he is praising those same companies for helping the people of Fort MacKay during the Fort McMurray evacuation.

“We were absolutely floored and so happy for the kind of support we got — especially from industry”,

said O’Connor, who has been serving residents of Fort McKay with his wife Charlene, a treatment nurse, for 18 years.

“Evacuees began pouring into Fort McKay on May 3. But their tiny health centre was not set up for the emergencies cropping up. Supplies were dwindling, especially the IV fluids needed by patients such as a child with pancreatitis.

“But within half an hour of a call, an EMS vehicle pulled up outside the clinic.

“‘Syncrude’ had delivered four boxes of everything we would need”, said O’Connor, who travels back and forth between Fort McKay and Edmonton weekly. “And we were just told if you need anything more, just call us and we’ll be there.”

“O’Connor emphasized that past criticism was not directed at industry but rather what he saw as the previous government’s failure to look after people’s interests.

“He said they saw the same sort of support from ‘Suncor’ and ‘Imperial Oil’. Similarly, ‘Shell’ and ‘CNRL’ flew out vulnerable residents while CNRL “bent over backwards” picking up and caring for people until they boarded a flight to Edmonton.

“The word back I got back from them was that ‘we were treated like royalty'”, said O’Connor. “And that was the hallmark of this throughout that week. It was unbelievable. I was so thankful.”

“O’Connor also lauded Fort McKay residents for stepping up. Candace Fabian “needs to take a bow”, he said, after taking in 23 people, mostly strangers, and lending out her vehicle.

“The way people pulled together was absolutely breathtaking and certainly fills me with pride for having witnessed what went on”, said O’Connor…


“This is the reason why we stayed”, said O’Connor. “We weren’t doing anything over and above what anybody else would have done in that situation. We were doing what we needed to do to ensure the safety of the vulnerable section of Fort McKay…”

–‘Oilsands critic lauds companies for helping Fort McKay ‘First Nation’ during Fort McMurray evacuation’,
Andrea Huncar, CBC News, May 23, 2016



‘First Nation’ reserves helping Fort McMurray evacuees’

“‘First Nation’ reserves across Alberta are collecting donations and welcoming in evacuees from Fort McMurray after all residents were forced to leave the city on Tuesday due to a wildfire.

“Fort McKay, about 65 kilometres north of the devastated area, has recently taken in 5,000-7,000 people fleeing the area. The reserve opened up its day care centre, elders centre, school and community centre. It also has campgrounds that it regularly rents to temporary oilsands workers, which has housed 3,000 people for free in the last few days.

“We’re in the camp business so we know how to house and feed people”, Chief Jim Boucher tells ‘Yahoo Canada News’. “When you have a huge influx like that, you get into high gear and you help out as much as you can.”

“He says there’s a doctor in the community, which sits on 20,234 hectares of land, as well as medication, diapers and food the ‘First Nation’ community can dispense if needed.

“We will remain here, we will keep the camps open and we will take care of as many people as we can”, 

Boucher says, acknowledging that the last week has been unquestionably emotional for both evacuees and band members.

“Some people have gotten out with nothing or very little, so there’s a lot of emotions in our community”, he says. “People are trying to be positive and upbeat and trying to get through this terrible time.”

“Dozens of flights from the nearby oilsands facilities Canadian Natural Resources, Fort Hill and Shell Albian Village are transporting people from the area, since the roads are closed down.

“Blanche Hals is an administrative assistant with Whitefish Lake’ First Nations’, about three hours’ drive south of Fort McMurray. She says some of their members have homes in the area and have returned to the reserve.

“They came back to stay with family but they’ve lost everything”, she tells ‘Yahoo Canada News’. “The community is coming together to help them out.”

“The reserve has also opened its lake and camping areas to evacuees with trailers or RVs.

“Some community members have opened their doors to take people in, but Hals couldn’t give an exact number. Others have started collecting donations to bring to reserves that are offering help.

“She says about 20 families have arrived at Beaver Lake, about an hour north of Whitefish.

“They’re taking truckloads wherever it’s needed”, she says.

–‘First Nation’ reserves helping Fort McMurray evacuees’,
Elianna Lev, Daily Brew, May 5, 2016




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