The Fort McMurray area is still recovering from the wildfires that eviscerated thousands of homes in May last year, causing insured damages of more than $3.5 billion, according to Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates.
Now, in a strange turn of events, a local group is up in arms at a visit from American actress Jane Fonda, who they have said is “kicking us while we are down.”
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Fonda, who is visiting the area to criticize energy development, was due to tour the oilsands by air last night, and is scheduled to speak at a Greenpeace Canada event at the University of Alberta in Edmonton tonight.
OilSands Strong, a local industry booster group who are pro-oilsands, described Fonda as “another hypocritical celebrity coming here,” in a CBC News
As many as 2,400 homes were destroyed in the wildfire last year, and 90,000 people evacuated. Canadian insurers faced one of their most expensive years as claims flooded in, and many residents lost both their homes and their livelihoods.
The region is still very much in the recovery phase.
Robbie Picard, founder of Oilsands Strong – who also lost his home in the fires – said the visit was insensitive to residents in the area, and described the timing as “horrible”.
“She’s attacking the very thing that feeds us all,” he said.
Canada Action, another pro-oilsands group, told CBC News
that they hope Fonda considers meeting the many people and industries that benefit from the oilsands, as well as learning about the environmental progress the industry has made.
The group’s founder, Cody Battershill, said Fonda’s visit was “unfortunate,” adding: “she will probably have, in my mind, a less balanced opinion of the issues.”
Meanwhile, Greenpeace said that the purpose of Fonda’s trip is to stand with First Nations who are opposed to the expansion of the oilsands and new pipelines.
The group said that Fonda will meet with several members of the Indigenous community while she’s in Fort McMurray, including Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allen Adams and members of the Anzac and Fort McKay communities.
Swiss Re estimates Alberta wildfire losses at nearly $3bn
Fort McMurray wildfire story voted Canada’s top news story of 2016