June 28, 2022
OPEN LETTER — On June 29, it will be one year since BC saw a heat dome that trapped people in 40°C+ heat last year. Temperatures that killed over 600 people and cooked shellfish and other marine mammals on the beaches of Western Canada.
Do you remember where you were? Do you have vivid memories? Were you cooling off with the AC blasting, sparing a passing thought for those who could not escape? Do you remember the relief that it was not you and your family?
I remember where I was. I was still hurting from the birth of my son, a month previous and was gripped by a persistent fear of heat that screeched in my ears as I constantly hovered — covering, cooling with damp cloths, and ferrying newborn skin from one hot place to a slightly cooler place throughout the summer. “How do I keep him cool now??” was a constant refrain in my head, driving me crazy with the anxiety. Reasons aside, we did not have AC, so I sought cool in the shade of trees, of the barn. On one particularly hot and hard summer day, our Caravan broke down and I got stranded on Side Road 40 in the heat with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Wilda, and newborn, Wendell. I pulled out a picnic blanket and acted like this was part of the plan, as I sheltered Wendell’s skin from the harsh rays. He got heat exhaustion that day, and a pale pink birthmark flashed bright magenta on his skin. It has never receded. It is a reminder of that day, of the heat dome, of my powerlessness and terror. The question continues to haunt me — what will we do when extreme heat hits us at home? What will new mothers do? What will people without AC do? The elderly in long term care homes? Who actually cares?
Scientists have said that if a heat dome were to hit us here, in the Great Lakes region, it could be even more catastrophic because of the humidity. It could mean reaching wet bulb temperatures, where our bodies cannot cool themselves. We would cook. It could be in 10 years. It could be this year. Are our governments prepared for this?
On this unsettling anniversary, tell me, tell Wendell, tell Wilda. What will you do to protect us from careening towards these catastrophes? Sprawl and highways are Ontario’s tar sands, contributing to the likelihood that this will become our future. It’s madness. Will you be a voice of reason in your party? Will you speak the hard truths for Wilda, and for Wendell?
Noelle Rancourt, Chatsworth
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