Honourable John Horgan
Premier of British Columbia
Dear Premier Horgan,
It has now been 34 days since the Lytton Fire incinerated a whole community. Lives, pets, and homes were lost; and businesses, livelihoods, and jobs destroyed. The medical services building, grocery store, police station, school, administration buildings, and ambulance are gone. The Village of Lytton and Lytton First Nation residents who survived the fire are now scattered in a multitude of communities, families are searching for loved ones, and evacuees have been moved numerous times. These community members have lost their stability and sense of belonging. They are looking for hope and answers but are getting very little information from agencies working on the ground.
During our helicopter tour of the region on fire, I asked both you and Minister Farnworth to provide support for this community. Small communities have few staff and many of the leaders and workers in the Village of Lytton have lost their own homes. This is a community trying to process the frightening experience of running for their lives, of complete devastation, loss of community members, and of course, wondering what is next.
We are 34 days in, and I am hearing from numerous people everyday with questions. They have spent 34 days in hotel/motel rooms scattered throughout the province, 34 days of eating in restaurants, 34 days of not knowing where they will live this winter, 34 days of asking questions and feeling they get no answers. They have spent 34 days of reading social media, where people are sharing the information they have — some correct, some an interpretation of what they hear, some sharing their sorrow and confusion.
Constituent questions are often very specific and very personal. Everyone is hurting and just looking for answers. Access to property has been a concern, communication and information sharing is a challenge, there are many people doing their best, but the perceived lack of a process is causing anxiety and fear. As government representatives, we need to recognize the gaps and do what we can to fill them. Mr. Premier, I have read the document published on August 14, 2019 titled “Interim Provincial Disaster Recovery Framework” which lays out the process that the government should be following when a disaster strikes.
In this document, it indicates that a process for Provincial Coordination (with local and regional government bodies, and First Nations government input) is initiated when the scale of an event is deemed to be catastrophic.
With the utmost respect, I have the following questions:
- What level of the Recovery Coordination Scale is the Lytton community assigned (page 11), and on what date was this decided and actioned on?
- The Guiding Principles talk about Accountability, Community-led, Collaboration and lnclusivity, Leadership, Build Back Better, Fairness and Transparency, Reconciliation, Pro-vulnerable recover and Flexibility and scalability. How will government ensure these principles are guiding the process? Is there flexibility to add to these principles if the community so desires?
- There are several steps throughout the recovery process outlined in the document. In what stage of recovery (page 14) does the province see the Village of Lytton at currently?
- Is the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment complete? If not, when will it be completed?
- The development of a Recovery Plan is an important next step. A process that is open, transparent, inclusive, and accessible is critical to community members. As outlined in the document, it is essential that the people of Lytton decide what their community will look and feel like post-disaster. Every level of government has a role to play in supporting the community vision and work. What will be the government’s commitment be in assisting in the recovery planning and the implementation of short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans?
- Prioritization of Recovery Actions and Measuring Recovery Progress will also be important processes for community and community leaders.
Mr. Premier, we are 34 days in. People on the ground are doing everything they can to move this process forward. However, I am hearing from residents who are anxious, concerned, frustrated, and some angry. Everything that can be done by those helping right now is being done, but residents are saying more is needed.
I am respectfully requesting that you recognize that Lytton is in the category of a ‘catastrophic event’ and requires recovery expertise and support from the provincial Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Emergency Management.
I look forward to working with you, your Ministers, Village of Lytton Council, Lytton First Nation, and MP Vis as we assist the residents through this very difficult time.