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Military begins deployment, highway to Bella Coola closed as hundreds of wildfires burn across B.C.



The Canadian Armed Forces says the first troops to help in British Columbia’s wildfire fight have arrived in the province, with more soldiers, helicopters and a Hercules plane poised for deployment.

The forces said in a statement that a reconnaissance team is on the ground in Prince George in central B.C. and is working with local authorities, including the B.C. Wildfire Service, to strategize.

The arrival of the personnel and equipment will be welcomed by firefighters and communities, said the province’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

“We also know we can count on the Canadian Armed Forces to be able to assist in terms of a lot of the work that needs to be done,” he said.


“While they don’t necessarily fight the fires on the front lines, they can provide important work to be able to allow the firefighters to do the work they need to be doing on the ground.”

Farnworth said the federal and B.C. governments, including his ministry, the military and the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) are currently developing a deployment plan “in terms of where is the best place and where the need is required.”

A bald-headed man in suit.
B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, Mike Farnworth, said the federal and B.C. governments, including his ministry, the military and the B.C. Wildfire Service are currently developing a deployment plan ‘in terms of where is the best place and where the need is required.’ (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The statement issued by the armed forces says that in addition to the reconnaissance team deployed on Sunday, two companies of soldiers from 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group based in Edmonton will be available “to assist and enable firefighting.”

“The first company will likely be deploying to the Burns Lake area, at the Northwest Fire Centre, and the second will likely deploy to Vanderhoof, at the Prince George Fire Centre,” the statement says.

It says Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft will support firefighting mobility and logistics, as well as emergency evacuations.

The deployment will include two CH-146 Griffon Helicopters from 408 Squadron and, if needed, a CC-130J Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said the Canadian Coast Guard will also provide two helicopters to transport firefighters and equipment to remote locations and provide support to remote coastal communities facing restricted access due to wildfires.

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced on Friday that military help had been approved after his counterpart in B.C., Bowinn Ma, made a request for federal help amid an eruption of fire activity.

Firefighters from an Alaska smoke jumpers unit refuel with pizza on the fire line of a wildfire burning near a highway in northern British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2023.
Firefighters from an Alaskan unit refuel with pizza on the fire line of a wildfire burning near a highway in northern B.C. on July 11. (Jesse Winter/Freelance)

Military assistance includes airlift evacuations

The B.C. Wildfire Service lists more than 360 wildfires burning in the province, with 23 listed as fires of note, where they are a threat to safety or are especially visible to the public.

Recent data has prompted the federal government and B.C. Premier David Eby to say that Canada and B.C. are on track to record their worst wildfire seasons in 100 years.

The 2023 wildfire season has now burned over 13,900 square kilometres as of 7 p.m. PT, breaking the record of just over 13,500 square kilometres set in 2018.

A working group comprised of members of Public Safety Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, and B.C. emergency management and wildfire officials met over the weekend to focus on deploying the federal resources.

Blair said last week the federal help could include military assistance for airlift evacuations from remote locations, as well as troops trained as firefighters who can “mop up” to keep blazes from reigniting.

Transport Canada, Parks Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are standing by to provide assistance.

A man with glasses in suit sits in front of a Canadian flag.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair holds a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Surinderpal Rathor, the mayor of Williams Lake, B.C., said Monday the arrival of the military will serve as a morale boost for firefighters and communities facing the wildfires.

Williams Lake, a community of about 10,000 people in B.C.’s central Interior, was evacuated in July 2017 due to encroaching wildfires.

“They were welcomed by the people, by the organizations, by the community, by the city, by the authorities, and they were the greatest help,” Rathor said in an interview on Monday. “It was the best thing that could have ever happened to Williams Lake. Without their help, we would not have been able to survive.”

Provincial fire information officer Sarah Budd said the service is “grateful” to the federal government for making the aid available.

“We have a long history of working together during particularly challenging wildfire seasons, of which this is obviously one,” she said in an interview Monday.

Budd said the average area burned by this time of year, going back a decade, is about 1,000 square kilometres.

“It is considerably more [this year], and there are a lot of reasons for that, the kind of underlying drought conditions that we had going into the season that are the results [of] longer-term weather patterns,” she said.

While much of the wildfire activity is concentrated in northwest B.C. and the central Interior, wildfires were also starting in the southeast.

On Monday, the B.C. Wildfire Service said a blaze 15 kilometres north of West Kelowna, B.C. was highly visible to residents in the area.

Hwy 20 closed

B.C.’s current wildfire situation includes an “aggressive” fire that exploded in size over the weekend and cut off highway access near the Central Coast, while more than a dozen new blazes have been sparked since Sunday, says the B.C. Wildfire Service.

The service says Highway 20 east of Bella Coola was closed Sunday evening as the fire that was discovered near Young Creek just the day before swelled to 22 square kilometres in size.

The service says no evacuation orders have been issued for the fire.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District says the Bush Creek East fire near Kamloops is “highly visible,” but no evacuation orders or alerts have been issued even as gusty winds have fanned wildfires around the city.

The Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation order issued Friday spanning nearly 3,340 square kilometres in the Lhoosk’uz area, west of Quesnel, as well as several others in the region.

To the north, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako rescinded an evacuation order related to the Big Creek wildfire. Residents of a remote area that includes Omineca Provincial Park have been allowed to return home, although they remain subject to an alert and must be ready to leave right away.

The Peace River Regional District in the province’s northeast has also cancelled an evacuation alert covering 60 properties due to the Donnie Creek blaze, the largest recorded in B.C.’s history.

The alert had covered a lengthy stretch of Highway 97 and properties in a remote area north of Fort St. John for more than two weeks.

Firefighters in bright yellow uniforms walk across a tarmac at an airport on a sunny day.
Portuguese firefighters arrive at the military airport in Lisbon for a brief departure ceremony before boarding a flight for Canada on June 14 to help with wildfires. (Armando Franca/The Associated Press)

Light rain brings light relief

B.C.’s drought bulletin shows widespread drought conditions, with the fire danger rating ranked at high to extreme across much of the province.

Environment Canada’s forecast for Kamloops says there’s a chance of rain and a risk of thunderstorms this afternoon, with many regions in the province under cloudy skies with possible rain on the way, breaking a weeks-long drought.

Metro Vancouver’s cloudy skies Monday brought light rain.

A wide shot of a river shows noticeably low water levels, with some fishermen able to wade to the centre of the river for their catch.
Rivers in the Chilliwack and Fraser Valley area are at levels normally seen in late August or early September, according to local residents. Drought levels are high throughout B.C. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Four of the 34 basins the province monitors are ranked at the most severe level of drought. That includes all of Vancouver Island, the Bulkley-Lakes basin and the Fort Nelson basin.

Such conditions are likely to continue, Budd added.

“We haven’t had the level of precipitation that would be required to address those underlying drought conditions, so they do persist, and when we get lightning strikes, the materials out there on the landscape are really susceptible to ignition.”



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'ET Canada' cancelled by Corus Entertainment, blames 'challenging' advertising market – CTV News



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Entertainment Tonight Canada to end after 18 seasons



A woman wearing a large pink dress holds a microphone and speaks to a camera while attending a red carpet event.
Cheryl Hickey, longtime host of ET Canada, speaks to the camera on the red carpet of the 2019 Canadian Country Music Awards at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. ET Canada will end on Oct. 6 after 18 seasons. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Canadian media company Corus Entertainment has announced it is ending flagship entertainment program Entertainment Tonight (ET) Canada after 18 seasons.

“The costs of producing a daily entertainment newsmagazine show in a challenging advertising environment have led to this decision,” read a statement posted on the company’s website on Wednesday.

“We recognize the impact this decision has on the dedicated team who have worked on the show and we thank them for their meaningful contributions over the years.”

The show’s final episode will air on Oct. 6, with reruns airing in the same time slot on Global TV until Oct. 31, a Corus spokesperson told CBC News.


The cancellation won’t impact Corus’s obligation to produce Canadian content under the rules set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the spokesperson said.

ET Canada’s website and social media platforms will also be shut down. The spokesperson declined to comment on how many people had been laid off as a result, but said the program’s hosts were impacted.

The network said it has no plans for another entertainment news show.


An hour-long, magazine-style show that focused on entertainment, celebrity, film and TV news, ET Canada began airing in 2005 on Global TV, which is owned by Corus Entertainment.

The program has been hosted by Canadian media personality Cheryl Hickey since its launch, with regular appearances by entertainment reporters, including Sangita Patel — a co-host since 2022 — plus Carlos Bustamante, Keshia Chanté and Morgan Hoffman.

The cancellation leaves ETalk, CTV’s weeknight show, as Canada’s lone major entertainment news program.

Andrea Grau, founder and CEO of entertainment publicity firm Touchwood PR, said ET Canada offered a Canadian perspective that made it stand out in the U.S.-dominated entertainment landscape.

“There was this great Entertainment Tonight brand that was going on in the U.S. — we all watched. And the idea of a Canadian arm of it was very special because it could give a different slant,” she said.

ET Canada’s demise comes during a major shift in the industry, she said, as publicists struggle to find entertainment outlets that can shine a spotlight on emerging Canadian artists and projects.

“Even though we share a language with the U.S. and we share pop culture, we are still Canadian and we have a different perspective,” Grau said, noting that ET Canada’s hosts were a mainstay on the U.S. press circuit.

“You see those relationships that have been built over the years of having Sangita [Patel] standing on a red carpet interviewing someone, or Cheryl Hickey interviewing someone. They’re recognizable to [celebrities] after all of these years, too,” she said. “They’ve created such a strong brand.”


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Canada just had its lowest number of births in 17 years. What’s behind it?



The number of babies born in Canada dropped to a 17-year-low last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a declining fertility rate, data shows.

A Statistics Canada report released Tuesday showed there were 351,679 births registered across the country in 2022, which was a five per cent decrease from the previous year. This was Canada’s sharpest drop recorded since 2005.

Before 2022, the lowest number of births recorded was in 2005, with 345,044 babies born nationwide.


While the number of births in all provinces and territories declined last year, Nova Scotia was the notable outlier with a 12.8 per cent increase in live births.

The biggest decrease was in Nunavut, with the number of births dropping 11.8 per cent compared with 2021.

Canada, like many other developed countries, has been seeing declining birth trends over the past several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many people’s plans to have kids, said Kate Choi, an associate professor of sociology at Western University.

“Although the fertility decline was indeed part of a larger trend of fertility decreases that have been occurring in Canada, the magnitude of the decrease is larger than what we would have anticipated in the absence of COVID-19,” she told Global News in an interview.

Click to play video: 'Infertility: Shedding light on a common problem'

Infertility: Shedding light on a common problem

The high cost of living has magnified the size of the drop in births, Choi said.

“It’s very expensive to have children and right now, when everything is expensive, it’s very hard for young adults to be able to have the type of lifestyle that allows them to have children, which is contributing to delayed and forgone fertility,” she added.

It’s a concerning trend for Canada, according to Choi, who said decreasing birth rates have the potential to exacerbate population aging issues.

Canada is considered a low-fertility country and its fertility rate has been declining over the past decade.

The latest Statistics Canada data from 2021 reported a fertility rate of 1.44 children per woman that year — marking a slight increase following a steady decline since 2009.

The fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of live births a female can be expected to have in her lifetime, according to StatCan.

As some couples delay their plans to have kids for a variety of reasons, egg freezing and other fertility treatments are on the rise in Canada.

Click to play video: 'More IVF babies born after summer egg collection: study'

More IVF babies born after summer egg collection: study

Lifestyle changes and work decisions are contributing factors, with a shift toward smaller families, said Mark Rosenberg, an expert in geography and professor emeritus at Queen’s University.

“I think mainly the factors we should focus on are first and foremost women’s decisions around the labour force and delaying birth until they’re in their 30s,” he told Global News in an interview.

There is also an increasing number of younger people living in single-person households, Rosenberg added.

Despite the drop in births, Canada’s population has been growing at a “record-setting pace,” surpassing the milestone of 40 million people earlier this year, due to a focus on increasing immigration.

Meanwhile, the StatCan report Tuesday also showed a rise in the proportion of babies who were born with a low birth weight — less than 2,500 grams.

Seven per cent of all babies had a low birth weight in 2022 compared with 6.6 per cent the year before.

Babies with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of complications, such as inhibited growth and development and even death, according to StatCan.

“When we see higher rates of low birth weight babies or higher rates of babies that are born who are overweight, those are issues that we should be concerned about because they reflect on people’s health,” Rosenberg said.

— with files from Global News’ Katherine Ward


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