Fort McMurray: Two Years Later

Fort McMurray: Two Years Later

$2 million in new donations and/or interest earned on unspent fund balance brings total funds available for disaster response to $325 million. This is a slight increase from $323 million reported in April 2017.

$291 million “spent and committed” over the past two years compares with $244 million last year. Relative to the total funds of $325 million, Canadian Red Cross (CRC) has an additional $34 million to spend.

In Year Two, CRC spent and committed $47 million (15% of total funds). The largest areas of spending and committing in Year Two:

    • $30 million to help individuals and families
    • $16 million for local charities.
    • $0.5 million allocated to fundraising costs. This is simply accounting, not actual spending on fundraising. CRC matches costs with spending. CRC reports $6.2 million in fundraising costs, 66% of the total $9.4 million budgeted.

Canadian Red Cross released its 2 Year Donor Report. Too few donors evaluate disaster response and, as such, reporting is typically poor. Perhaps if more Canadians read these reports, charities would see that information is valued and improve reporting. Posted May 2, 2018 and updated May 3, 2018. 

Key priority areas 

1. Help for individuals and families: $30 million allocated in Year 2.

This was the largest area of spending and commitments in Year Two.  Looking for details on this, CRC provides new comments not previously reported. It helped over 10,000 people get mental health supports and counselling.

In the disaster phase, Canadian Red Cross provided supports to all. Now in the recovery phase, Canadian Red Cross focuses on the most vulnerable. Canadian Red Cross reports helping more than 16,000 families through help with bills, mortgages, rents, repair and reconstruction supports, and referrals to other community agencies.

CRC notes that two years after the wildfire, more than 1,500 families continue to need recovery support.

2. Local charities and community partnerships: $16 million in Year 2.

In June 2016 shortly after the Fort McMurray fire, Canadian Red Cross committed $50 million to local charities and community partners to help them recover. Nearly two years on, Canadian Red Cross has granted and committed $40 million, fulfilling 80% of its pledge to date. After a slow start only granting $8.1 million before March 2017, Canadian Red Cross has accelerated its grants to local charities and organizations.

In Year Two, Canadian Red Cross granted $16 million to 26 local charities and community partners, 19 were first-time grants, 7 charities and community groups received additional grants. CRC announced a total of 29 new grants. The average grant size was $552,000, the largest average grant size yet. CRC's donor report highlights its support of Indigenous groups. No additional information is provided on how much each charity or group received. 


 # Charity Name Purpose for grant
New grants in Year 2 Recovery:
1. Aboriginal Congress of Alberta Association for recovery celebration in Fort McMurray
2. Air Cadets - Squadron 868 RCAS

to support skills development programs for youth, including emergency preparedness

3. Alberta Somali Community Centre

reimbursement for support services during evacuation in Edmonton

4. Anzac Recreation and Social Society

to restore, regrowth, resilience community tree planting event

5. Athabasca Good Samaritan Ministries

additional storage for food bank

6. Athabasca Tribal Council

two grants: one for staff healing retreat focused on traditional approaches to recovery; another grant to increase culturally-appropriate psychosocial support for the 5 First Nations represented by Athabasca Tribal Council

7. Boreal Artist Institute

to promote recovery and resilience in children and youth through traditional Indigenous knowledge and arts creation

8. CAMH Canadian Mental Health Ass. North East Region (CMHA 1994)

for community engagement and capacity building to support those at-risk of suicide

9. Canadian Vision Care

for emergency eye care services and eyeglass supplies to evacuees

10.  Careers: Next Generation Foundation

to expand career programs to include industries with increased workforce demands as a result of the 2016 wildfire

11.  Centre d'acceuil et d'etablissement du Nord de l'Alberta

for French summer camp for children and youth

12. Centre of Hope Non-Profit Society of Fort McMurray

for the CARE Wood Buffalo access reference to reduce barriers to support services

13. Clearwater Horse Club

grant to rebuild horse barns damaged in fire

14. Fort McMurray Public School District No. 2833

for mental health co-ordination for students and staff across 4 school districts

15. Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed

for 2017 Healing Gathering for Land and Water to support community recovery

16.  KidSport Wood Buffalo

for children and youth to join teams and sports activities in Wood Buffalo

17. Nigerian Canadian Association of Fort McMurray

for an event focused on personal and community recovery and well-being

18. Waypoints

finally - for outreach and trauma counselling in rural areas (Charity Intelligence recommended Waypoints in May 2016).

19. Wood Buffalo Women and Baby Care Association

for community consultation, education, and preparedness for infant and young child feeding in emergencies

Repeat grants to previous recipients:
20. Wood Buffalo Food Bank

for charity and social profit appreciation event to recognize contributions to community recovery efforts

21. CMHA - Alberta North East Region

two grants: one to grow Pets and Wellness (PAWS for people) program; another grant for family peer support network for parents of children and youth experiencing mental health concerns

22. Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre

for 2017 National Indigenous Day celebration

23. Fort McMurray First Nation 468

reimbursement for outreach and food distribution during early recovery

24. McMurray Metis MNA Local 1935

two grants: one for a disaster recovery strategy position to ensure recovery needs of Metis communities are met in recovery and reflected in planning for future disasters; another grant for landscape and building development plan for building back better

25. Fort McMurray Catholic School District

Santa Anonymous holiday hampers for families and affected community members in need

26.  St. Aidan's

grant for children of fire-affected families to go to summer camps in Wood Buffalo


Upcoming: Year 3 Final report expected May 2019.


Previous Charity Intelligence reports on Fort McMurray Fire:

Not So Fast: Fort McMurray 1 Year Update Canadian Red Cross announced 1-year results on its Fort McMurray's disaster response. It reports 75% of total funds received are spent and committed. This would be Canadian Red Cross's fastest response. Except the new wording "spent and committed" conflates two important categories. Canadian donors deserve clear reporting. Looking into the financial numbers and deferred accounting rules, it looks like 61% of total funds are actually spent

For the 5 1/3 months ending April 2017, CRC reports:

  • $26 million financial lifeline to Fort McMurray small businesses. This has been superbly executed with the entire $30 million commitment completed in 10 months.  
  • $18 million for individuals and families. Canadian Red Cross does not disclose information about its programs over this period; its timeline is blank on activities after November 3. New numbers released raise concerns as calls for aid rose by over 40,000 (37%) and families receiving housing support rose by 2,900 (32%).  This could show a spike in demand for help, or simply be old numbers updated with new information. 
  • $17 million granted/committed to local charities and community organizations is going slower than hoped. Fuse Social's independent surveys show many Fort McMurray's small charities remain in financial need after the fire. 

Disaster response is one of the trickiest areas for intelligent giving. When the disaster happens, there is little information. One gives solely on promises. Now is when donors need to do their homework to evaluate when the money was spent and how it is helping Fort McMurray. Now is the toughest time of Fort McMurray's recovery. For the 1 million Canadians who donated, please take the time to read Charity Intelligence's report and our annotated version of Canadian Red Cross's one-year donor update.

Fort McMurray 6 Month Update – In the most recent three months, Canadian Red Cross received an additional $20 million in donations and spent $21 million. Spending was primarily on Red Cross programs ($16 million). Canadian Red Cross is doing one-to-one needs assessments. So far it has completed 13,310 client assessments, providing 9,000 families with money for temporary housing, rent, mortgage and utility payments. Canadian Red Cross has spent an estimated $187 million - 59% of total funds available - with $130 million remaining for Fort McMurray's relief and rebuilding. All of these funds have been committed, but commitments may change with new needs emerging - November 3, 2016

Fort McMurray 3 Month Update  Canadian Red Cross announced new spending commitments of $92 million. New commitments include $62 million for more Canadian Red Cross programs and $26 million to Fort McMurray's small and mid-sized businesses. This allocates the full $299 million in donations and matching government funds. Now the challenge is to move from commitments to execution. After fast disaster response in May, spending slowed. To date, $165 million has been spent - 55% of total funds available. Fort McMurray’s local charities haven’t seen much of the $50 million promised in June. We hope this changes, quickly - September 29, 2016

Fort McMurray 2 Month Update  The disaster phase is over. Fort McMurray now transitions to the relief and rebuilding phase. To date, 45% of donations and grants spent, Canadian Red Cross has an estimated $141 million to spend. This report gives donors a review of the disaster response with comparisons to other Canadian disasters Alberta Floods, Lac Megantic and Slave Lake, and brief updates on a few of Fort McMurray’s local charities – July 7, 2016

Fort McMurray Local Charities get $50 million commitment from Canadian Red Cross – June 3, 2016

Transition from Disaster to Recovery – May 30, 2016

Fort McMurray Fires: Where to Give – May 5, 2016



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