Skip to content

West Kelowna wildfire victim demands climate action on Parliament

Women impacted by climate change from across B.C. came together in Ottawa to demand change on June 6
Photo of West Kelowna's Heather Mackay in June 2024, after speaking on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, about the impact of losing her home in the 2023 West Kelowna Wildfires.

It has been one year since the Mackay family had to start over. 

One year since they watched and re-watched a four minute security camera clip that showed the moment the McDougall Creek Wildfire engulfed their home. 

"I was instantly sick to my stomach and knew life as we knew it was over," read Heather Mackay on Parliament Hill, nearly one year after losing her home to the 2023, wildfire that spread from West Kelowna, across Okanagan Lake to Kelowna and the surrounding area. 

Mackay and three other B.C. women who have lived through flood and wildfire stood together on Parliament Hill on June 6, to demand climate action from the federal government and the oil and gas industry.

It is the collective goal of the four women – Mackay, Diana Boston who lost her home in the 2021 Merritt floods, Meghan Fandrich, who was impacted wildfires in Lytton and Payton Moffat, whose home was damaged by floods – to humanize the issue of climate change.

The four women were brought together by Climate Action Network Canada, to bring awareness to the impact that climate change has on people and communities.

"The reason we are in Ottawa is because they don't know what it is like in B.C. where fires are constant," said Mackay in an interview with Black Press after speaking in Ottawa. 

"What is happening in Kelowna and around the world is scary."

Mackay and the Climate Action Network's call for change coincided with a meeting between the federal government and senior executives within the oil and gas industry.

In Canada, the oil and gas sector is the largest single producer of greenhouse emissions, which are proven to be directly linked to an increase in global temperatures and climate change. 

After reading their statements detailing their lived experience with climate change at a press conference, the four women met with politicians from across the country. 

Mackay said she was both "super disappointed and pleasantly surprised," by responses from the Members of Parliament she spoke with.

She said that some politicians were "really pandering to oil and gas," and were "aggressive" while others were receptive to the conversation and open to the potential for change. 

Mackay said that on Parliament Hill, she found that some people were unwilling to learn or engage in conversation about climate change. Some people simply told her that she shouldn't use a car or heat her home if she wants to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions to curb climate change – since those luxuries rely on carbon-based combustibles. 

Mackay said that she is not a political person and is not pretending to have all the answers on how to mitigate the impacts of climate change. She is also certainly not 'anti oil and gas'. 

However, what Mackay does know firsthand is the devastating impact that climate change can have on people, communities and the environment. She said she also knows that everyone, especially those producing the most emissions, have to make a change. 

"We are hoping the oil and gas industry will take some responsibility," said Mackay. 

"We are asking for change."

Mackay urges Canadians to reflect on why taxpayers are being asked to "foot the bill" for change when the oil and gas industry is generating huge profits year after year, and why the government has not imposed a cap on emissions from the sector that is responsible for the most pollution in Canada. 

"Our homes and communities should not be sacrificed for oil company profits."




Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

Read more