Canada did not provide “adequate” help to the elderly and the disabled during soaring summer temperatures that killed hundreds, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Tuesday.
Temperatures in June reached a Canadian record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the west coast province of British Columbia and authorities were not prepared for the disaster that killed at least 569 according to the government's own figures.
“People with disabilities and older people are at high risk of heat stress, but they were left to cope with dangerous heat on their own,” HRW disability rights researcher Emina Cerimovic said in a story as reported by the Aljazeera news website.
“The Canadian authorities need to listen to and provide much better support for people with disabilities and older people before disaster strikes again.”
The organization also condemned British Columbia's health services for delaying deployment of its emergency measures to deal with the intense "heat dome" until temperatures were starting to drop.
“One person said that her 88-year-old aunt who used a wheelchair died on June 28 as a result of the heat dome [heat trapped by a high pressure system] and had been unable to get through to 911 [emergency medical services],” the report reads.
A longer wildfire season due to climate change also contributed to poor air quality with negative health effects, the report states.
“Canada’s federal and provincial governments are required to take action to prevent foreseeable negative impacts on rights from climate change, including protecting those most at risk of negative health impacts, such as older people and people with disabilities,” the report says.
The rights organization also raked the Canadian government over the coals for continuing to subsidize fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
British Columbia officials responded to the report by telling HRW that it is "developing an extreme heat and wildfire smoke response strategy in 2022-2025."
However, the rights group said "urgent measures" need to be adopted by the government.
The rights group interviewed 31 people who described their efforts to counteract the high temperatures./agencies