Human Rights Watch Says British Columbia Failed to Protect Vulnerable People During Heat Wave

Inadequate support from the British Columbia government during an extreme heat wave this summer “compounded the risks” for people with disabilities and the elderly, says an independent international human rights group.

Human Rights Watch says in a report released Tuesday that while those two groups are at increased risk of heat stress, many were forced to cope with the dangers of record temperatures on their own.

Data released by the BC Coroners Service and the province on July 30 reported 569 “heat-related deaths” in the province from June 20 to July 29. Most of the deaths were people aged 70 and over.

The report says Canadian governments and authorities need to listen and better support people with disabilities and the elderly before the next heat event.

“British Columbia does not have a heat action plan, and lack of access to cooling and targeted support for at-risk populations contributed to unnecessary suffering and possibly deaths,” says the report, “Canada: Disastrous Impact of Extreme Heat “.

The researchers examined the days from June 25 to July 1 for the report when BC “experienced a heat dome, a high pressure weather system that traps heat, with record temperatures of 49.6 degrees Celsius.”

Human Rights Watch says it interviewed 31 British Columbia residents about their experiences during the heat wave period. The organization says it also reached out to service providers, community leaders, human rights advocates, the government of British Columbia and the city of Vancouver.

Opposition Liberals and Greens were highly critical of the neo-Democratic government’s response to Tuesday’s heat wave in the legislature, pointing to earlier government reports that warned of the risks of heat events.

Acting Liberal leader Shirley Bond said Prime Minister John Horgan’s initial response to the potential dangers of the heat wave was “appalling.”

“He said, and I quote: ‘Deaths are part of life and there is a level of personal responsibility,’ end the quote,” Bond said in the legislature. “Today, can the prime minister explain his government’s inability to respond effectively to the deadliest climate situation in Canadian history?”

Horgan was not in the legislature during the question period, but Health Minister Adrian Dix said the government was faced with a meteorological event that occurs once every thousand years, but now that it has happened, the government must learn lessons.

British Columbia’s Inappropriate Heat Wave Supports Greater Risks to Vulnerable People: Report. #HeatWave #BC

“It is no longer one in a thousand years and it requires action to deal with resilience and support people,” Dix said. “Everyone in this house is devastated by the fact that the people we know in our community passed away that weekend. Gutted by it.”

The minister acknowledged that those affected by the heat wave were the most vulnerable.

Dix said the government’s efforts to combat climate change, increase income assistance payments, hire more staff at long-term care facilities, and increase ambulance crews will give the province more strength to fight the upcoming event. challenging.

“All these actions make us more resilient, but we have to do more,” he said.

This Canadian Press report was first published on October 5, 2021.

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