A Canadian politician has been blasted for saying ‘fatalities are a part of life’ and appearing to blame the public after hundreds of excess deaths were reported amid British Columbia’s unprecedent heatwave and out-of-control wildfires.
At least 486 sudden deaths have been reported over the last five days during British Columbia’s heatwave – which included triple digit temperatures and the country’s hottest day ever at 121F.
While it’s unclear exactly how many are related to the heatwave, the province’s chief coroner said there are typically 165 sudden deaths in the same time frame.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said during a Tuesday press conference that ‘fatalities are a part of life.’
He went on to say, ‘It was apparent to anyone who walked out doors that we were in an unprecedented heat wave and again there’s a level of personal responsibility.’
He added: ‘The public was acutely aware that we had a heat problem. And we were doing our best to break through all of the other noise to encourage people to take steps to protect themselves.’
His comments immediately drew the ire of social media, who accused the BC Premier – which is most similar to a US governor – of blaming the victims.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said ‘fatalities are a part of life’ as Northern Canada faces an unprecedented and deadly heatwave
The heat wave caused an out-of-control forest fire and burned the small Canadian village of Lytton to the ground
Horgan tried to walk back his comments on Twitter, saying: ‘Nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved one, whether it’s from the unprecedented heat wave or any other cause.
‘Mourning families deserve our compassion, and the wording of my comments didn’t reflect that. Please continue supporting one another & checking on your neighbors.’
But the damage was already done, and many people didn’t seem to accept the apology.
‘That’s OK John (you don’t mind if I call you John, I hope), you showed us who you really are with your original callous comments. Too late for this apologetic spin put together by your comms team. It wasn’t “the wording” of your comment that was the problem, it was your intent,’ @InspiredAquaCA tweeted in response to Horgan’s apology.
‘The words you are looking for are “I am sorry, my comment was wrong and callous. Thank you for calling me out on it,”‘ @noxidls tweeted.
‘Nothing can shut you up from making insensitive comments either. what was said today is truly inexcusable. passing away from reasons relevant to heat is not apart of life. it never has been,’ Twitter user @ry6n_ said.
Western Canada -including the province of British Columbia – and the Pacific Northwest region of the United States has been devastated by a ‘heat dome’ over the last week.
Horgan tried to walk back his comments after facing backlash on social media
Many people on Twitter were made at his original comments and didn’t accept his apology either
It is the result of a high-pressure jet stream which essentially acts like a lid to a boiling pot, and has left Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest sweltering in record temperatures.
The small Canadian village of Lytton had country’s hottest temperatures ever recorded for three consecutive days starting with 115F on Monday, 118F on Tuesday and 121F on Wednesday.
A day after hitting 121F, a wildfire burnt the village.
‘It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,’ Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC.
In the US, at least 60 deaths in Oregon are tied to the heat, with a another 20 suspected fatalities recorded in Washington.
King County Medical Office, which includes Seattle, reported Wednesday that 13 people had died of heat-related causes, including three men – aged 51, 75, and 77 – were killed after suffering from a heat stroke.
The heat dome over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest region of the US acts like a lid on a pot and raises the temperature significantly
British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 ‘sudden and unexpected deaths’ between Friday and Wednesday. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the Canadian province over a five-day period
The result has been unprecedented heat waves in typically cooler areas and forest fires, like this one British Columbia
Wildfires are raging in California, including the lightning-sparked Lava fire in the northern county of Siskiyou, which forced the evacuation of at least 8,000 residents Monday afternoon.
The flames have engulfed almost 20,000 acres as of Thursday afternoon, according to the interactive California wildfires map. Only 19 percent of that fire is contained, according to the map.
‘This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,’ Dr. Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County, Oregon, health officer said in a statement.
‘I know many county residents were looking out for each other and am deeply saddened by this initial death toll.’