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120 soldiers to land in Abbotsford, B.C. by day's end: Anand

Ottawa -

Defence Minister Anita Anand has confirmed that by the end of Thursday, 120 Canadian Armed Forces personnel will be on the ground in Abbotsford, B.C. to assist with the flooding emergency there.

Anand, alongside Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, provided an update on the military and government support being delivered to British Columbia.

“Over the next 30 days, and possibly longer if needed, the Canadian Armed Forces will be there to help the people of British Columbia through this crisis,” the defence minister said.

“They can evacuate people to safety, offer help to those who are vulnerable, stranded or in distress, support critical provincial supply chains, investigate the impacts of flooding to help B.C.’s planning of relief efforts, and assist local authorities in protecting critical infrastructure.”

It’s day four of the flooding crisis that’s affected the southwest region of the province and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

The agricultural community of Abbotsford has been hit especially hard and the mayor says flood waters could take weeks to be pumped out.

The B.C. provincial government announced a state of emergency Wednesday, the same day the federal government confirmed receipt of their request for federal support.

Anand said the department has mobilized a reconnaissance team to assess the situation alongside provincial officials.

“This critical step ensures that our deployed troops will be able to provide the most extensive assistance to help British Columbians,” she said.

Up to 350 personnel are ready to be deployed from Edmonton, as part of the immediate response unit. There are currently two CAF-operated helicopters roaming the region, conducting damage assessment.

“If needed, we have thousands more members on standby ready to help the province,” Anand said.

This is the 12th natural disaster-related request for assistance that the CAF has responded to since the start of the pandemic, which doesn’t include the 71 COVID-19-related requests.

“I will admit that the pandemic has been tough on the Canadian Armed Forces. The number of times we’ve been called up, we are under strength and our recruiting and training system has suffered accordingly,” said acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre, also present at the press conference.

“But I have to say, we continue to respond to urgent demands and nothing is more important to the Canadian Armed Forces than protecting Canadians here at home…this is our top operational priority.”

Alghabra spoke to the supply chain issues at play, due to roads and rail access being cut off by landslides and washouts.

“I’m in contact with my counterpart in British Columbia, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, who’s team is working around the clock to restore critical infrastructure and supply chains on behalf of all Canadians,” said Alghabra.

He also reminded Canadians to keep their boats off rivers and lakes unless for essential purposes, noting the “wake from your boat can permanently damage buildings.”

Meanwhile, Wilkinson took a moment to connect the extreme weather event to the broader climate crisis and how this new reality should impact decision-making going forward.

“Climate change mitigation and certainly adaptation will have to be front and centre in the decisions governments make at every level. We’ve gone from devastating forest fires to catastrophic flooding in the span of three months. We’re going to have to adapt…and we have to prevent it from getting worse,” he said.

The federal government has promised their support during the province’s eventual rebuild phase, namely to restore critical infrastructure. Top Stories

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