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Commentary: Evacuee rights must be upheld

All municipalities should be encouraged to plan ahead to guarantee that the rights of evacuees are upheld and supported throughout any wildfire emergencies

With Alberta facing a projected severe drought in the coming months – and with it a heightened and increased risk of wildfires – communities in wooded and semi-wooded areas are faced with the real possibility that evacuations may be necessary this summer.

And as past recent examples have shown, such evacuations can be traumatic and life-changing for the unfortunate residents involved.

Whether communities in this district will face evacuations this summer remains to be seen. What is known is that being prepared and able to evacuate safely and securely is in everyone’s best interest.

As part of the preparation for possible wildfire emergencies in 2024, the Alberta Human Rights Commission has released an official information bulletin in support of both evacuees and those who could be called upon to help residents forced from their homes.

The bulletin includes an outline of the rights and responsibilities of evacuees, along with specific information on issues such as human rights in tenancy and the hospitality industry.

Specifically, the commission says evacuees have the right to personal safety and security during stays in temporary housing, the right to access necessities, including food, water, shelter and medical care, the right to privacy and personal space, the right to information about the crisis, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta says the information from the commission is timely in that municipalities could soon be asked to help provide services during evacuations.

The rights of evacuees must be upheld and supported throughout any wildfire emergencies that may arise in the coming days – anything less would not be acceptable.

At the same time, residents in the district should take the time to ensure they have 72-hour emergency kits in place should evacuations be necessary this wildfire season.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.

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