Fired With Compassion.



Unless you have been living under a rock this past week you have probably heard of the fires that are devastating Canada right now in the wake of a very dry year, hot temperatures and unforgiving winds. More specifically, the damage inflicted on Fort McMurray, the heart of the Oil Sands in the remote regions of Alberta.

There is a history here that is difficult and time-consuming to explain to someone who does not know Canada. Like all countries, we are the product of our history, and feelings and emotions run deep.  Events are always shaded with the colourings and outcomes of past experiences. There is a process in place, Canada evolves and changes with each passing year. Canadians live, eat and breathe these experiences and so of course, they understand them in a way that others cannot fully appreciate.

Having lived in other countries, I realize that the news we receive via traditional media is not necessarily the truth. Not only are we subjected to the agendas of big business and politics, we are always hearing perspective from the delivering country. It can be amusing to hear the exact same story reported by the US and then hear Canada’s spin. It is like people attended two different events. Most people have come to understand that mainstream media has a bent, as does right-wing alternative coverage. Neither is all right or all wrong.  Today you have to be willing to look for the truth because it will be found among the many different takes on any given subject, and none of those takes are more relevant than the voices of the people who live it.


The people who have firsthand experience are worth listening to.  It doesn’t make their information correct, or the full story,  but they add a context to the discussion that we have to consider when listening to any other input.  We are gathering facts.  Some of those facts will be about the impact of what is happening, some will be about who did what.  Some will be about things said and things that were not done.  Discussion of efficacy has to come after the event.  Not during.  People need time to process and sort things out.  We can’t condone or condemn actions taken until we have passed the crisis and can determine their impact.  I cannot possibly overlay my secondhand opinions over their firsthand life. I need to shut up, listen, be supportive.

Whether charitable organizations give enough money to the victims is a fight for another arena and stage, not one to be had during a crisis.  However, the crisis can later be used as evidence to support that fight.  It is a possible good outcome out of a terrible situation but it is not an immediate response that is in any way helpful.

My sons have worked in the oil sands for many years. They care about those men and families up there. They know many of them. My son may still lose his farm up there and we had several scary hours trying to locate a grand-daughter who lives there. My son’s home is currently full of extra people they took in. They are actively involved in trying to get help where it is needed and checking on people. I have friends who live there. My daughters have friends who live there. I think most Canadians know people who are connected to or are living in Fort McMurray.  This is the province that I grew up in and Fort McMurray has, and will always be more than just another town on the map in a large province.

Fort McMurray evac relocation help is a facebook page dedicated to getting help to people in real time. A man who lost his teeth was instantly picked up by a dentist who took care of it. A woman whose dog was left behind, had him rescued. A group of 600 people stranded without supplies had trucks on their way. Firemen needing food were hooked up with people who cooked. Homes were offered, businesses made announcements, updates were given, pictures were shared, people were found. These are the voices of Fort McMurray and Canada. THIS is the story.

I care more about what these people have to say than I care about what journalists are writing and other people are speculating.

Canadians reach out and they help. They are there with words of encouragement. These are the people who are telling Fort McMurray what I want them to know . . . that we see them, that we hear them, that they are not alone.  This is the only response that is required in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy.  The Canadian people did this and yes, there are already questions about where our leaders were and why they were not the ones to stand and speak for the nation and tell the people of Fort McMurray that we are there.  This IS my question to ask because I am Canadian.  I will keep it for down the road out of respect for the people that need more important considerations right now.

THANK YOU to my sons for sending me this and giving voice to what we are all feeling. I don’t want to argue or try to explain to people who are not there, have never been there, and cannot possibly understand all the shadings and meanings of this tragedy that cover decades. The dialogue that comes out of this fire is important to hear. It may be one of the most important conversations that Canadians have had in a long time. Who are we? Does our government represent us?  How do we make sure that all Canadians both benefit from living in this country and also share the responsibility of living here.


Like many tragedies, they tend to define people and Canada will have to examine and pull apart  much of what happened here and what did not happen. Hopefully it at least provides a catalyst to answer some important concerns that have been churning for years. I have a profoundly secret hope that when all is said and done Canadians will look at what they have been able to do and will never again utter the words, “what can we do?”  I think it is evident how powerful a people can be when they work together for the common good of one another.  I think it is clear that they did it on their own.

In the meantime, the rest of us can either listen and be supportive of the efforts these people are making, or we should probably sit down and watch a football game and leave them to it. You can choose not to help but for the love of God, at least don’t harm. Have some sensitivity that the people who you are talking to, or who might read your posts, may have just been through a horrific tragedy. Politics can be talked about and debated down the road. Right now there are still people to find, animals to rescue, more fires, and a town to be rebuilt.


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