An apology for Canada’s first responders

David Beatty, the Federal Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville, wrote to me just a few weeks ago to ask whether the public can still rely on the Canadian government to respond with adequate resources in case of an emergency. At the time, Mr. Beatty expressed his frustration after having been contacted by constituents worried about what could happen in the aftermath of a major earthquake or storm.

“Our constituents know that Canada is a nation of first responders and are very anxious to see their Government take effective measures to get critical infrastructure back online as quickly as possible following a disaster,” he wrote.

It’s a real problem. This year alone, three major disasters have struck Canada and have severely crippled critical infrastructure. More than 1,000 flights were cancelled in Calgary during May flooding while 47,000 homes in Halifax experienced flooding in June. Fortunately, all those residents returned to their homes safely, but that will change if another disaster strikes Canada.

You may be wondering how Canada can be considered prepared for an emergency. You are correct to question the adequacy of the Canadian Government’s preparedness to respond to a disaster. The Government will obviously not be prepared for a natural disaster, but they have failed their most important responsibility — to ensure their citizens have the most important resource they need: public safety.

Sadly, in many of these cases, the Government has failed their citizens and Canadians. The recent flooding in Halifax clearly demonstrates this. The safety of the 1.1 million residents of Nova Scotia required the resources and engagement of federal emergency workers. Instead, at least 1,000 Canadians in that province were left to fend for themselves because of the callous and irresponsible response to the critical infrastructure crisis.

Since 2011, over 1,400 people in our country have perished in natural disasters. When it comes to having a quick and effective response to these disasters, the Canadian Government has not lived up to our most basic expectations. That is why I have called on the Government to urgently enact emergency response reform legislation. I believe it is imperative that the federal government act now so that Canada can become a nation of first responders in the face of catastrophic disaster.

Let’s hope that Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, agrees and takes steps to improve Canadians’ preparedness for natural disasters.

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