Gathering with Fort McKay Community and Presentation of the Governor General’s Commendation for Outstanding Service
Fort McKay, Alberta, Friday, June 24, 2016
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are on Treaty 8 territory.
Canadians have a long history of helping each other in times of need.
As I often point out, it’s a history that began with the generosity that indigenous peoples showed to newcomers who were trying to survive their first winters in this cold country.
And it’s a history that continues into the present day, as we saw with the great generosity this community showed to those who were fleeing the wildfires.
In total, the people of Fort McKay welcomed an estimated 5 000 evacuees from Fort McMurray.
That’s an astounding number, especially when we consider the population of Fort McKay numbers only in the hundreds.
But it’s in the details, not the numbers, that the impact of your generosity is truly shown.
You opened your doors and found places for people to take shelter and sleep.
You offered meals to the hungry, medicine to the sick, diapers to those with young children.
You gave comfort and helped people feel safe and secure during a frightening, uncertain and very difficult time.
And let’s not forget this fact: Fort McKay itself was threatened by the wildfires.
This makes your response even more admirable.
Later today, we’ll be touring Fort McMurray to get a better sense of the fire’s impacts and the challenges the city still faces.
And likely I’ll be meeting some of the same people you hosted!
But already I know that what happened here in Fort McKay was very special.
All of Canada, and indeed people around the world, watched as the devastating wildfires spread.
We took comfort in the stories of people pulling together and helping each other, and your story—the story of Fort McKay—inspired us all.
Thank you for your compassion, your generosity and your bravery.
And thank you for inspiring all Canadians by your example.