PWRDF, Sacred Circle members provide funds for wildfire-ravaged Telegraph Creek, B.C.

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Fire rages on a mountainside in British Columbia, where at least 560 wildfires were reported to be burning as of Thursday, August 23. Photo: Shawn Talbot/Shutterstock

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s global aid agency, has given $5,000 to the diocese of Yukon to support wildfire-ravaged Telegraph Creek, B.C.

PWRDF executive director Will Postma announced August 9 to Sacred Circle, the decision-making body of Indigenous Canadian Anglicans, that he was providing the funds to Larry Robertson, bishop of Yukon diocese, to support the mostly Indigenous community. In an email to the Anglican Journal, Robertson said the diocese would work with the local band to help those affected by the wildfires that have ravaged the area.

In addition to the PWRDF grant, Robertson said, the diocese has received funds for the same purpose from other sources—including almost $1,300 donated by members of Sacred Circle, which met in Prince George, B.C., August 6-11.

Hundreds of people were reported to have left the area around Telegraph Creek, in northern B.C., in early August, fleeing from wildfires. In a PWRDF news release, Robertson said fire had destroyed at least 27 buildings in Telegraph Creek, including the Roman Catholic church of St. Theresa and its rectory. The town was already suffering from a housing crisis, according to band leaders.

Anglican leaders believe St. Aidan’s, the Anglican church in Telegraph Creek, still stands, but they add that communication with the town remains difficult.

“The fire and destruction continues,” Robertson said. “Please ask the people to pray for rain, for the safety of those affected by the fire and those first responders who fight the fire and reach out with help and love to those who have lost so much.”

St. Aidan’s is one of a handful of northern B.C. Anglican parishes that fall within the diocese of Yukon.

On Wednesday, August 15, the B.C. government declared a state of emergency in response to the many wildfires ravaging the province. As of Thursday, August 23, these totalled more than 560, and air quality alerts have been issued in many parts of the province.

The impact of the wildfires was felt at Sacred Circle itself; at the University of Northern British Columbia campus, where the event was held, the air was hazy and smelled like smoke throughout the week. A planned focus group on PWRDF, which would have taken place outdoors, was cancelled after local officials issued air quality warnings, and a plenary discussion was held indoors instead.

Also at Sacred Circle, Postma and Judith Moses, representative of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples on PWRDF’s board, gave a presentation outlining the agency’s intention to increase its work in Canadian Indigenous communities in coming years and asking for feedback on what its priorities should be. PWRDF is currently developing a five-year strategic plan, Moses said, and one of its goals is to support more projects within Canada, and to respond more to disasters in the country.

The agency, she said, is interested in funding projects that, among other things, will be guided by clear principles, sustainable into the future, compatible with the goals of the Anglican Healing Fund and reconciliation in general, and manageable, given the agency’s limited resources.

Among the Indigenous projects currently funded by PWRDF, Postma said, are a clean-water project in Pikangikum, Ont., language and culture projects in Alberta and Quebec, an economic development initiative in B.C. and a project supporting Indigenous midwives in Peru and Mexico as well as Canada.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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