In their time of need, the people of Lac-Mégantic got support from across Canada to help cope with the disastrous aftermath of a deadly train derailment. Now the Quebec town wants to give back, by helping the victims of the Fort McMurray wildfires.
The mayor of Lac-Mégantic says his town of 5,900 will make a donation to support residents whose lives have been upturned by the devastating blazes in Alberta.
"In 2013, all of Canada helped Lac-Mégantic. Now it's what we want to do [for Fort McMurray]," Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier said in an interview on Thursday. "After our catastrophe, a lot of citizens sent us messages of courage, determination and resilience. We want to send them the same thing. They will need it."
Aid began to pour into Lac-Mégantic in the days and months after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the heart of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and obliterating much of the town centre. Nearly three years later, the Red Cross has collected $14.8-million for the town and aid workers are still present in the struggling community.
To Mr. Cloutier, the "images of horror" in Fort McMurray are darkly reminiscent of the apocalyptic scenes in Lac-Mégantic in the early hours of July 6, 2013, when the tankers burst into flames.
"We can only feel solidarity," the mayor said.
Mr. Cloutier and the region's local MP, Conservative Luc Berthold, have joined together to call on people to support Fort McMurray through the Canadian Red Cross.
Mr. Berthold said "all of Canada mobilized for us," and now, "it's our turn."
"These people need us and will need us," Mr. Berthold, who represents Mégantic-L'Érable, said in a statement. "I want to put all efforts forward so that we respond rapidly to the needs of the citizens of Alberta."
Residents of Lac-Mégantic are still suffering the economic and health-related after-effects of the disaster.
Through the Red Cross, more than 3,200 people in Lac-Mégantic have received support, including 256 people who lost their jobs, 113 families who have grieved loved ones, and 32 children who lost one or both parents.
"We know that in one year, people in Fort McMurray will still have problems. These are major catastrophes," Mr. Cloutier said.
On Thursday, the Quebec government also sent four water bombers to Alberta from the province's forest-fire protection service. Premier Philippe Couillard called the fires in Alberta and forced evacuation of 80,000 people a "cataclysmic" situation.
"Firemen, airplanes, whatever is needed, we will provide. These are fellow Canadians and we want to be there with them," the Premier said.