It was a long, uncertain journey for the Elders from Canim Lake. The group of fourteen Elders, caregivers and pets were headed home from the Elders Gathering at Campbell River on Vancouver Island July 11 – 13. Many of the Elders had made it all the way to Kamloops when the evacuation order was issued for their community and they were forced to turn around.
Canim Lake, located near 100 Mile House, received the evacuation notice July 15 and the Elders have been stuck in the Fraser Valley ever since. Many needed medical care for diabetes-related concerns, like foot care but were far from their community.
The Elders first made contact with Stó:lō Nation who connected with First Nations Health Authority. “Stó:lō stepped in with their emergency services and got them housed in Abbotsford right away and got them registered with the Red Cross as soon as they could,” explained Susan Stoneson of the First Nations Health Authority.
They also helped connect the Elders with local Bands for support, health services and activities and our Health and Social Development Department, along with several other Nations, were more than happy to help. While some Elders went for a cultural tour at Stó:lō, many came to Seabird July 19, for a rest, foot care, healthy food and a comfy place to visit relatives before continuing on to their hotel in Abbotsford.
“The communities are definitely rallying,” said Susan. “The Elders have housing for another week and we’re going day by day and some of their families are coming down as well, they’ve been evacuated, so they will be reunited which is good.”
The activities and outings help keep the Elders moving and connected during a stressful time. It’s also been helpful for many of the Elders who have support pets with them. First Nations Health Authority is expecting more families to arrive soon if wildfire conditions do not improve and is looking to connect them as well.
“Now they’re looking at some activities for Youth who are starting to trickle down. We’re trying to get movie passes, waterslide passes and bringing them to some of the local places that have events and have a gym to do some activities for the kids.”
Assembly of BC Indian Chiefs reported that 20-Bands have been affected and First Nations Health Authority is working to ensure they remain connected, no matter where they land in the Province and Seabird is helping where it can.Several families within the community have taken in relatives affected by wildfires and Seabird is planning to provide food assistance where it can.
If you are currently providing housing for an evacuee, contact Carolyne Neufeld at 604-796-2177.