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Grant will support those with “very little financial capacity” to handle evacuation

A smoke-filled sky looms in the distance at the campsite where Archdeacon Alexander Pryor and his family are living after fleeing their home due to wildfires.

August 25, 2023

By Jacqueline Tucci

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PWRDF is responding to an evolving emergency in the Diocese of the Arctic, as wildfires continue to force people from their homes across Northwest Territories.  

A $5,000 solidarity grant has been disbursed to the Diocese of the Arctic. Diocesan staff in Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith have all been evacuated. The grant is in place to support the Diocese as it offers care for others who have had to leave quickly.  

“While every evacuation is traumatic, the scale of a Northern evacuation adds unique pressures,” says The Ven. Alexander Pryor, Executive Archdeacon of the Diocese of the Arctic.  

Cars line the roads as people evacuate their communities due to encroaching fires.

“Each community has a single road, and for us leaving Yellowknife, there is one gas station – with a total of four pumps – along the first 800 km of that route. There’s one store, one hotel with about 20 rooms, and 20,000 people all trying to get out through the smoke and as flames flare up in the ditches along several sections of highway.” 

This grant draws on funds from PWRDF’s In-Canada Emergency Response Fund, which launched last week and has already raised over $22,000, and is intended to fill gaps in other relief given by the government and other funds. Having access to immediate funds through our In-Canada Emergency Response Fund allows PWRDF to act quickly to support communities when emergency strikes. The fund also allows us to respond to mid- to longer- term needs as identified by communities.  

“We are grateful for our supporters for their donations, prayers and encouragement to PWRDF to be present at such fearful and uncertain times,” says PWRDF Executive Director, Will Postma.  

This flexible emergency grant allows a Diocese to use the funds where there is a need, such as for gas, food, and shelter for those fleeing wildfires, or to respond to the resulting trauma in communities which so-often occurs after an emergency.  

Archdeacon Alexander Pryor and his daughter sporting clothing provided to them.

“All diocesan clergy and lay staff are on Council of the North stipends and live in diocesan-owned housing. That means they earn well below-average wages while living in the most expensive part of Canada,” says Archdeacon Pryor. “This works when all goes well, but it leaves very little financial capacity for clergy or staff families to tackle unforeseen expenses.” 

As clergy receive a stipend and not a salary, they are technically not out of work and therefore do not qualify for the Government of the Northwest Territories emergency support payments. For many Council of the North clergy, the sudden expenses of fuel, food and lodging can be unmanageable.  

“All this while clergy and lay staff are working hard to support parishioners while caring for their families and pets in hotel rooms, or camping, as I am,” says Archdeacon Pryor. 

“[The PWRDF solidarity grant] is helping ensure that clergy and lay staff can care for their families and remain as focused as possible on caring for the people they serve during this difficult time.” 

PWRDF responds to emergencies around the world and with the support of Canadian Anglicans and others, offers assistance to communities that are especially hit hard by floods or wildfires as we are seeing with greater intensity and frequency.  

“Support to the Diocese of the Arctic offers an opportunity for the Diocese to reach out and care for those who are traumatized. We are encouraged by so many who have offered donations and prayers at such an important but uncertain time,” says Postma.  

How you can help

You can donate to directly to the In-Canada Emergency fund at any time. You can also mail a cheque to PWRDF at 80 Hayden Street, 3rd floor, Toronto, ON, M4Y 3G2. Please indicate In-Canada Emergency in the memo field. You may also donate during business hours by calling 416-822-9083 (or leave a message toll-free at 1-866-308-7973) and we will return your call.

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For media requests please contact Communications Coordinator Janice Biehn at (416) 924-9199;366.

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