The Rev. Sam Halkett leads a July 8 service at St. James, Little Red Lake Reserve, focusing on the wildfire evacuees, some of whom were in attendance. The diocese sent a cash donation, which was divided equally among six evacuated families. Photo: Mary Brown
With 118 wildfires continuing to burn in northern Saskatchewan—some expected to burn until autumn or even the first snow—the Anglican Church of Canada is providing financial aid for victims.
On July 7, after consulting with Michael Hawkins, bishop of Saskatchewan, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) announced a grant of $15,000 in relief funding to the Prince Albert Grand Council. This tribal council, representing 12 First Nations with about 30,000 members, is supplementing the efforts of the hard-pressed Red Cross by providing meals, clothing, blankets and shelter. It is also transporting evacuees, giving medical care and helping firefighters battle the conflagrations, of which 57 cover more than 100 hectares.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, have also pledged $5,000 to the diocese of Saskatchewan for relief efforts. Hawkins and diocesan Indigenous bishop of Missinipi Adam Halkett are leading the church’s on-the-ground support.
The donations are “a sign of a church family across the country that cares deeply about what’s happening in the context of a church local,” said Hiltz in an interview. “Relief and development is not just what we do around the world—it’s what we have to do, sometimes, right in our own backyard.”
Hiltz also said in a statement, “This is a very difficult time and we continue to pray for everyone affected by these fires.”
Triggering the biggest evacuation effort in the province’s history, the massive fires have displaced an estimated 12,000 people as of July 5, with some now having been cleared to return. According to the Canadian Red Cross in Regina, as of July 7, 7,800 were registered with the agency for assistance and temporary shelter.
The same hot dry weather conditions fuelling the fires in Saskatchewan have also triggered blazes in British Columbia, including some close to the diocesan offices in Kelowna.
The Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) also stepped in quickly. “When Bishop Hawkins called to ask if the AFC might be able to assist with the needs of evacuees, of course I said yes,” said the foundation’s executive director, the Rev. Canon Judy Rois. “He said he needed $5,000 to meet immediate needs such as food, water and transportation, and we wrote him a cheque for that amount as soon as we hung up.” The money came from the AFC’s Council of the North fund.
“The support that we’ve received, both in terms of prayer and finances, has been overwhelming,” Hawkins told anglican.ca. “There’s really been a sense of solidarity. We talk in the diocese of Saskatchewan about being mamuwe, which is Cree for ‘together,’ and there’s a real sense that Anglicans across the country are together with our folks in this crisis.”
To support the PWRDF’s relief efforts in northern Saskatchewan, donations can be specifically designated with the tag “Saskatchewan Wildfires.”
Contributions can be made to the PWRDF online or by phone: contact Jennifer Brown at 416-924-9192 ext. 355, or 1-866-308-7973.
A young boy rings the bell before a service at St. James, Little Red Lake Reserve, which focused on evacuees of the Saskatchewan wildfires. Photo: Mary Brown
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Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.
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