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  14 Sep 2021, 10:00

Wildfire evacuees tempted not to vote in Canada election

  LYTTON, Canada, Sept 14, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - On the front lines of global

warming, evacuees from Lytton, a western Canadian village destroyed by
wildfires in June, are detached and bitter about the upcoming September 20
snap elections.

   Lytton, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Vancouver, gained
international attention for setting a new Canadian heat record of 49.6
degrees Celsius (121.3 Fahrenheit) before being ravaged days later by a fire
that killed at least two residents.

   More than two months later the town is deserted, with police checkpoints
stopping people, even residents, from entering.

   The town is flanked by fences that mask the devastation -- a burnt tree,
charred cars, the cinder outlines of a house and a single intact road sign.

   A rare motorist drives along a highway that runs through the town.

   Sitting on a bench outside a bakery in the town of a Lillooet, north of
Lytton, Micha Kingston watches her five-year-old daughter Mimi play with her
two dolls, some of the few personal items the family saved as they fled their
home.

   "It's weird because I do feel like I am a refugee and that's not something
that you associate with Canada, that's something you think of like somewhere
else where there are wars," she told AFP, gripping a donated pullover with
the Vancouver Winter Olympics logo on the front.

   - 'Nothing ever changes' -

   Kingston, who is a single mother, and her daughter are among the 250
Lytton residents forced to flee when flames reached the town.

   Some 33,000 people in British Columbia have been displaced by forest fires
this summer, and nearly 1,600 fires have been recorded in the province,
making it the third most devastating season in terms of hectares burned. One
week before Canada's national election around 200 fires are still active,
including the fire that ravaged Lytton.

   Those fires were made worse by a heat dome linked to climate change that
saw hot air trapped by high pressure fronts over western Canada and United
States, a heat wave that claimed hundreds of lives, experts said.

   Kingston, whose political leanings have swung between the leftist New
Democratic Party and the Green Party, said she is considering not voting for
the first time ever.

   "Everyone is talking about (climate change), but like nothing ever
changes. So, it's easy to be disillusioned with politics when nothing
changes," she said.

   Voting would be "more difficult than usual" because "everything is so
crazy right now," she said, adding that her post-traumatic stress complicates
every little task.

   Kingston now lives with her daughter in a tent in a friend's yard, and
survives on government food stamps.

   "I'm not like angry. I'm more (feeling) disconnected than anything," she
said.

   Kingston said she's grateful for the help she received in securing
unemployment insurance from the constituency office of her local Conservative
MP, Brad Vis.

   Nevertheless she won't support the Tories in this election due to the
party's weaker climate plan.

   For the ruling Liberals to hold an election "after the summer that British
Columbia just had is a betrayal to the residents that I represent," said Vis,
who is campaigning for re-election.

   Hundreds of displaced locals "are looking for a place to live this winter"
and don't even know how they're going to be able to cast a ballot on
September 20, Vis told AFP.

   Elections Canada said it is working with local authorities to make sure
people can vote and encourages them to do so by mail.

   - 'Some kind of hate against B.C.' -

   Fire evacuee Neil Dycke has been staying in a motel in Kamloops, about 170
kilometers northeast of Lytton, since the fire destroyed his town.

   "You can't blame the politicians" for the wildfires, Dycke said, adding no
one could have predicted the fire devastation.

   "It's like someone has some kind of hate against B.C., you know... because
there is an awful lot of fires this year, way more than normally and close to
towns too."

   Another fire evacuee, Christine Abbott, 56, chokes back tears as she
remembers the home she had lived in since 2012 with her husband Vince.

   The home, destroyed by the fire, had belonged to her father-in-law.

   "The people who are in leadership have to care about the people and I
don't think that's what's going on," she said, sitting on a folding chair
outside her camper, parked a short distance from Lytton.

   As for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, "he's too busy for us," so
for the first time ever "I might be too busy to vote," she said.

 

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