The City of Thunder Bay has told the province it will be unable to host any evacuees from northern communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We decided that because of the worldwide crisis of COVID-19, and the local situation at Thunder Bay, and what’s happening with the City of Thunder Bay, that we are simply not able to host any evacuees,” said city manager Norm Gale. “And the reason for that is, we can’t serve them the way we normally do.”
“There’s a lot of work that goes behind an evacuation and hosting evacuees, and we’re just not able to do that,” he said. “We are scaling back non-essential city services already, and we’re focused on the COVID-19 response. So it’s just not doable.”
Gale said the province had not officially asked Thunder Bay to host any evacuees, and there aren’t any evacuations happening currently; he said Kashechewan First Nation may be evacuated later this month, however, due to flooding.
Rather, Gale said the province reached out to cities like Thunder Bay this week, asking if they could potentially host evacuees if and when the need arises.
“We are absolutely focused on the COVID-19 response,” Gale said. “That has drawn all of our resources, and we have scaled back on city services. We can’t do both. We cannot accept more, and that’s the rationale behind our decision.”