The federal government’s modelling indicates this may be an “especially severe wildfire season,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa as smoke clouded the nation’s capital.
“Year after year, with climate change, we’re seeing more and more intense wildfires and in places where they don’t normally happen,” Trudeau said at the press conference, accompanied by multiple ministers.
As of Sunday afternoon, 413 fires were burning across the country and more than 26,000 people remained evacuated in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Quebec and Nova Scotia, Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair told reporters on Monday.
Of those 413 active fires, more than half are considered “out of control,” said Blair.
So far this year, there have been 2,214 wildfires nationally, and approximately 3.3 million hectares have been burned, Blair added. Nova Scotia has already had more fires this year than during all of 2022. The government’s update also revealed there are 18 active wildfires currently impacting First Nations: six in Alberta, five in Saskatchewan, one in the Northwest Territories, four in Quebec and two in Nova Scotia.
Federal modelling shows “well above average” fire risk in every province except Newfoundland and Labrador for June, and this trend persists through to September, with Quebec and the Atlantic provinces expected to improve as the summer goes on.
“The current forecast for the next few months indicates the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity,” said Blair.
While Trudeau and his ministers answered questions inside, a group of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill in the smoke to deliver a petition with tens of thousands of signatures to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. The petition calls for an end to fossil fuel electricity and support for renewable energy across Canada. Guilbeault arrived near the end of the rally — organized by the David Suzuki Foundation — to receive the petitions gathered by groups like the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Council of Canadians, 350.org, Environmental Defence, Ecology Action Centre, Ontario Clean Air Alliance and Leadnow.
“No new gas on the grid,” chanted the crowd at Parliament Hill. Guilbeault received the petitions in person at about 1 p.m. on Parliament Hill.
“Year after year, with climate change, we’re seeing more and more intense wildfires and in places where they don’t normally happen,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference Monday, accompanied by multiple ministers. #cdnpoli
Guilbeault thanked the people attending the rally, calling the cause “really important” and pointing to the federal government’s commitment to “have a carbon-neutral grid by 2035.”
“Unfortunately, across the aisle … we have the Conservative Party of Canada who, in the midst of what will likely be the worst year in terms of forest fire (in) the history of this country we call Canada, they’re calling us to do less when it comes to (fighting) climate change,” Guilbeault said at the rally. “They want to make pollution free again. They don’t want us to go ahead with clean electricity, affordable electricity for all Canadians.
“We need your help. We need you to put pressure on all of us, all politicians equally, but we need your support. Thank you so much. Keep going at it. We need you.”
NDP MP Richard Cannings called for an emergency debate on the fires Monday afternoon.
“It is clear we need to re-evaluate the federal role in wildfire protection and response, including dedicated training for wildfire crews, direct supply of equipment from hoses to helicopters, resource allocation planning and co-ordination of international teams,” Cannings wrote in his appeal to the Speaker.
“We must do as much of this as possible in the next few weeks before summer truly arrives,” the South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP said, adding that action should be informed by the “urgent debate of Parliament.”
Cannings’ request was approved Monday evening. An emergency debate on the fires will take place from 10 p.m. to midnight.