The Red Cross outlines its assistance program in support of those affected by the disaster in Lac-Mégantic

Topics: Quebec, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
July 17, 2013

(Lac-Mégantic, July 17, 2013)  – The Red Cross is embarking on another stage in its assistance to those affected by the disaster in Lac-Mégantic: outlining its assistance program. The framework for the program was approved at meetings held this week with representatives of member organizations of the advisory committee. Pascal Mathieu, acting Director General, Canadian Red Cross, Quebec Zone, noted that through the generosity of members of the public, partners and businesses, the Red Cross had so far collected some $5 million in support for Lac Mégantic, and these funds would make it possible to provide direct assistance to those affected by the disaster.

A three-stage assistance program

From the first hours following the evacuation of the downtown area, the Red Cross has been providing emergency assistance to meet the most urgent needs – food, clothing and shelter – of the evacuees, some of whom still cannot return home. The provision of emergency assistance will continue as long as necessary.

Subsequently, short-term recovery assistance (funeral costs, study grants, relocation costs, home support, inventory replacement and so on) will be provided to evacuees and others affected, workers who have lost their jobs following the disaster, small businesses that were directly affected, those who have lost loved ones, and other vulnerable individuals. Volunteers have so far met with more than 900 families to assess their needs in terms of recovery assistance.

Lastly, long-term recovery assistance will be provided from funds collected by the Red Cross, starting today. It is important to note that the Red Cross will be there for those affected as needs emerge over the coming weeks, months and even years.

Main principles of Red Cross assistance

When the Red Cross sets up a dedicated fund like the Lac-Mégantic disaster fund, an advisory committee is sometimes formed to ensure that the assistance provided matches the specific needs of the community, and complements all the other relief programs in place, such as government programs and those run by insurance companies. The Red Cross accepts cash donations only to be able to respond to specific needs of the evacuees and other people affected. Assistance is provided in the form of vouchers, debit cards and bill payments. This approach enables the organization to determine exactly why and when vouchers were used, in order to be accountable to donors. Administrative costs related to dedicated funds like the Lac-Mégantic Support fund never exceed 5 per cent, which means that for every dollar donated, at least 95 cents goes directly to help those affected.

Membership and role of the advisory committee

The committee’s mandate is to support the Red Cross in the management and coordination of the relief fund. “It is always very important for us to be assisted by representatives of the community affected, in order to establish priorities, identify groups requiring support, and meet specific needs of the community,” adds Mathieu. “We are thankful that we have been able to rely on organizations with a strong commitment to the community in Lac-Mégantic since the beginning of this operation.” The organizations represented on the Red Cross advisory committee include the City of Lac Mégantic, the Lac-Mégantic Chamber of Commerce, the du Granit health and social services centre (CSSS), the development committee of the du Granit regional county municipality (MRC), the Lac-Mégantic employment centre, the des Hauts-Cantons school board, the community development corporation, the Department of Public Safety and the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

About the Red Cross in Quebec

The Red Cross acts before, during and after a disaster to meet the needs of those affected. In Quebec, as it does everywhere else, the Red Cross develops prevention programs, helps communities prepare and offers material and humanitarian support to those who have suffered in a disaster. The Red Cross supports local authorities and the Government of Quebec in accordance with their requirements. It is the primary partner in providing assistance to those affected by a disaster.