Solidarity in a Summer of Fire

September 2023

Much of Canada was blanketed in smoke for the 2023 fire season, with almost 5600 wildfires to date this year. NWT evacuation orders impacted over 20,000 northerners forced from their homes and communities. Yukon fires sent Mayo and Old Crow residents from their homes, causing upheaval and anxiety for these close knit communities. Many residents of Kelowna remain under evacuation alert, and across this country fires rage threatening lives and livelihoods.

This was the hottest summer ever recorded on our planet. Countless Canadians were forced to flee, not knowing what to expect on their return. After the near total destruction of Lytton in 2021 and the inferno that blazed through the Hawaiian town of Lahaina, images of fire ravaged home towns are seared into our hearts; we all feel the urgency and fear.

Being prepared in case of emergency can provide valuable peace of mind but nothing can truly prepare you for the moment you must lock the door behind you and flee. For those without a vehicle, relying on emergency evacuation flights and transportation can add extra layers of anxiety. For everyone affected, there is uncertainty.

Yukon Employees’ Union has reached out to Yukoners and our neighbours in the Northwest Territories, wanting to provide any assistance we can. As always, we look to the helper organizations and have chosen to lend our financial support to those working at ground level.

Close to home, Yukon Employees’ Union has made a $20,000 contribution to the Whitehorse Food Bank to help ensure shelves are filled. The Food Bank has been a constant support to locals and to evacuees from the Yukon. They have also stepped up to ensure our NWT neighbours can access food when they arrived here.

As well, Yukon Employees’ Union donated $50,000 to the NWT Emergency Response Fund coordinated by the United Way in the NWT. Donations will be matched by the GNWT, doubling the impact.The United Way is trusted and was deeply involved in helping with evacuation efforts, and supporting displaced climate refugees.

We urge you to take care of yourselves and plan for your family’s safety. We also encourage you to have conversations in your workplace and with your employer around how an evacuation might impact your work and your pay.

Will you lose income if an evacuation order is issued? How will financial uncertainty complicate things if you have to evacuate suddenly?

YEU worked with employers this summer to ensure that workers forced to leave their communities would not face financial hardship. Sadly we imagine this conversation will take place more frequently as our climate continues to warm.

The impacts of climate change are profoundly real, and are impacting our lives right now across the north. Planning for future disasters is imperative. Please stay safe, and continue to take care of one another.

We are always stronger together.


Membership (person level):
Page tag: has access