A woman from Lytton, B.C., is angry after the prime minister referred to her hometown as being gone after a fire tore through the 250-person community this past June.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sarah Brown said she was “shocked, upset and quite honest, offended.”
Trudeau had referred to Lytton’s fate in his opening remarks at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders gathered to discuss their countries’ efforts in fighting climate change.
“In Canada, there was a town called Lytton. I say was because on June 30 it burned to the ground,” Trudeau’s partial remarks read, referring to a devastating stretch of days in the central B.C. community where temperatures rose to 49.6 C before the town was ignited in a forest fire.
But Brown said that although many of the structures in the village’s centre are gone, the community that made up Lytton is still here.
“Lytton still exists. Yes, 90 per cent of the downtown core of the Village of Lytton and Lytton First Nation IR 17 and 18 burned in the fire on June 30, but the community of Lytton remains strong,” she said, adding that at least 50 people whose homes did not burn down still live in Lytton.
“The community of Lytton, in the direct vicinity of the exclusion zone, is still very much alive.”
Brown was born in Lytton in a house that her parents moved into in 1990.
“This is the same house they escaped from on June 30, 2021,” she noted.
Brown also aimed her frustrations at what she called the “bureaucratic red tape” that has prevented the residents from rebuilding their lives. She cited a July 1 conversation that Trudeau had with Premier John Horgan where he “assured Premier Horgan of the Government of Canada’s support for the people of Lytton and all those affected by the fires.”
However, Brown said that aid has not been forthcoming.
“Though you committed that support, community members have not seen it,” she said, adding that Trudeau also chose not to stop in Lytton for any of his recent trips to B.C., included to Surrey in July, Tofino in September and to Kamloops last month.
My letter to @JustinTrudeau regarding his comments at #COP26 that there "was a town called #Lytton".
WAS a town called Lytton? There still IS a #Village called Lytton. It hasn't gone anywhere.@GlobalBC @VancouverSun @CBCNews @deed5 @EdithLK @JenThoss pic.twitter.com/8ilBQdvoFh
— Sarah (@sarlobro) November 7, 2021
The province has provided some support for the Lytton evacuees; in July, that government committed $2,000 to households impacted by that wildfire and other aid, including housing, has been provided through Emergency Support Services.
In October, the province appointed Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, and Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development, to act as recovery liaisons between the government and the village.
“We all want to see Lytton rebuilt and rebuilt quickly. But the reality is that housing solutions take time. There will be bumps along the road to recovery,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in an Oct. 27 statement.
Earlier this summer, both the province and the feds pledged to match British Columbians’ donations to the Canadian Red Cross wildfire fund, up to a total of $20 million, to help those affected by wildfires across B.C., including Lytton.
Many of the other efforts however, have been grassroots, whether at the local Lytton level or by fundraising efforts across the province that have ranged from lemonade stands to GoFundMes.
The prime minister’s office said that the federal government has provided aid to Lytton and the surrounding areas, citing the matching funds for the Canadian Red Cross and the immediate presence of the Canadian Armed Forces on the ground in Lytton this past summer.
“The Canada Revenue Agency implemented emergency tax measures to support Canadians whose primary concern was taking care of their families, homes and communities,” the PMO said in a statement. “
Indigenous Services Canada is working with local Indigenous communities and has provided millions to support the Lytton First Nation in immediate recovery. We are also committed to support their interim housing strategy, providing mental health supports to community members. We stand by to provide further assistance as necessary.”
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