Religious groups answered the call when the tragedy occurred

Ready or not, climate change is here to stay. As editor and communications manager of the national multi-faith environmental network. Faith and the common good (FCG), this group has been looking at the obvious role of religious organizations (FBO) in preparing our communities for extreme weather.

For years, FCG has been testing the concept of FBOs as neighborhood resilience centers, safe havens in both emergency preparedness and response for years. Efforts have been made in some cities and towns to formally recognize and establish partnerships between governments and FBOs because governments do not have the capacity to do so on their own.

With physical infrastructure like roads washed away and buildings collapsing around us (think British Columbia fires and floods and East Coast floods), these occasional stories look at what social infrastructure on the ground looks like to religious groups. who work to support those affected. due to climatic impacts.


“We are always ready,” says Narinder Singh, president of Gurdwara Dukhnivaran Sahib in Surrey, BC. As soon as he learned of the flood, Singh appealed to his community for volunteers. “We announced on local Punjabi radio that we have to do something to help.”

The challenge was how to get food and supplies to the isolated people of the continent. The city of Hope was disconnected from the east and west. “No one was able to reach the stranded people. So we hired helicopters with our funds. Our community donated ”.

That night, the volunteers prepared more than 3,000 meals. In the following days, and once a temporary highway was established, the community loaded a 53-foot-long truck to transport supplies. The community set up a store with “everything: food, blankets, baby food” and a mobile kitchen food truck. “Every day we serve hot meals. We bring volunteers from our temple. We organize ourselves ”.

During the onset of COVID-19, the community went door-to-door in Abbotsford delivering groceries to seniors who had no means of transportation (transit was closed) to the tune of 84,000 bags. During the Lytton fires last summer, “We were the first truck to reach that community, bringing water and juice. It was us. “

Singh says that the pillars of the faith of Sikhism are the motivation and the reason why they are always ready: “The first thing is to ‘always remember God.’ The second is ‘doing the hard work’ and the third is ‘sharing with others in need.’

The beauty of being a non-governmental group is that you can be nimble in your response.

“The government decides whether there is an emergency or not,” says Singh. “They were thinking, we were taking action.”

With physical infrastructure like roads being washed away and buildings collapsing around us, faith groups are poised to become first responders, writes @BeatriceEkoko # COVID19 #climatechange

Not ready

Gary Abbott, chief architect of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council in Lytton, BC, member of the Siska Gang and commander of the Lytton fire department says they got the call and took action three days before the province did anything to respond.

“There were no provincial systems. I spoke to my bosses. The bosses said, ‘Go away.’

Abbott is used to emergency situations, having trained as a commander in the US Navy. He called both the Emergency Management BC (EMBC) office in Kamloops and the Red Cross for help, but was told to wait for instructions from the province. So in the early days of the fires, they were alone.

Abbott began calling all of his contacts through his extensive networks and formed teams to help. Residents needed places to go, so the volunteers took names and booked hotel rooms. He helped establish donation centers throughout the province. The volunteers also set up a Facebook page for their nation as a way for people to stay connected.

Communities were still recovering from the fires when the floods hit.

“There were many warnings. It was expected. When the fire passes, it destroys the ground cover. There’s nothing left, ”Abbott says. “This was the third atmospheric river this year, the difference was that the amount of rain forecast was well above the amounts we had had. But the province did not take the warning seriously. “

Abbott describes his philosophy this way: “Be proactive, not reactive as this is just the beginning of the new normal.” He points out that people need to understand climate change; how it will affect them.

For Abbott, what is needed is proper management. “The way financial markets are set up is the wrong mindset,” he says. “We don’t need record earnings every year. We don’t need to cut down trees. We should be mining landfills, reducing waste. There has to be a point where you say, ‘We’ve done enough.’


Sukvinder Kaur Vinning, a FCG board member and a member of the Sikh community, was involved in both British Columbia emergencies, helping to connect people and mobilize networks to assist in the evacuation of stranded people.

Reflecting on why as a larger community we don’t seem prepared, why people were rejected at first when they wanted to help, he wonders if it is because we are using a “gear mindset, colonial methods, bureaucratic ways of doing things. that lead people to operate from their assigned boxes. “

“Instead of an ‘or’ approach, a collaborative ‘and’ approach will take us further …” he says.

As these recent climate emergencies show, all hands are needed to overcome crises. An important change in the way we prepare is embracing diversity and the many ways to achieve good results.

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