Letter to Alberta Government on Wildfires at Fort McMurray

News & Events
May 16, 2016






Monday May 16, 2016

Marcella Munro, Stakeholder Outreach and Communications Manager
Premier’s Southern Alberta Office
Executive Branch
McDougall Centre
455 – 6 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2P 4E8


Dear Ms. Macrella Munro,

On behalf of the Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC), I am writing you a letter to let you that we are saddened regarding the wildfire disaster situation around Fort McMurray, in Northern Alberta. Our thoughts are with the evacuees who had to leave their homes ravaged by the fire.

Founded in 1940, the CAD-ASC is the national information, research, and community action organization of Deaf people in Canada. We promote and protect the rights, needs, and concerns of those who are linguistically and culturally Deaf who use American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ).

The CAD-ASC would like to endorse the letter delivered to you from the Alberta Association of the Deaf because we have observed that there have been no Sign language interpreters placed in a live broadcast via television nor in any videos shared via social media platforms when the Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, is there to provide speeches, updates, and share emergency plans regarding the fire situation in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas in Alberta.

We would like to inform you that Deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) require access to these same communications for any preparations for natural disasters and mass emergencies. These individuals and communities also require access to information, for example, fire preparedness information and notification of evacuation centre locations.

We are aware that a whole group of Sign language users have been left to find other indirect resources for important information or updates. Additionally, larger groups such as hard of hearing people would benefit from closed captioning. Having no direct access to this critical information is unacceptable in these circumstances. In times of emergency, it is essential that crucial information be passed in a timely manner, to groups of Deaf people, anywhere in Canada, including those residents and others directly affected by the current wildfire situation in Northern Alberta.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) formally recognizes Sign languages and confirmed these languages’ rights and protections and equal status to spoken/written languages in the signatory countries. Canada’s Parliament, as one of the signatories, ratified the treaty in March 2010. The CPRD recognizes access to communications and personal safety as human rights.

There are seven CPRD Articles, which requires access to communications for persons who are Deaf that uses Sign language in relation to natural disasters and other mass emergencies. These are:

  • Article 1- Purpose
  • Article 5- Equality and non-discrimination
  • Article 9- Accessibility
  • Article 11- Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies
  • Article 19- Living independently and being included in the community
  • Article 21- Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
  • Article 25- Health

We ask the Government of Alberta to provide full accessibility for everyone regarding any emergency plans and capabilities such as Sign language interpreters at any live broadcast. Please take a look at perfect examples where there have been such instances of live interpreter provisions in the United States of America, or Australia at the following links:

I can be reached at ffolino@cad.ca to welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss more details that emergency management and plans can be provided to Deaf people in the future emergency situations.


[Original signed by F. Folino]

Frank Folino

Distribution Lists:

  • Calvin Novak, President, Alberta Association of the Deaf
  • Kyle Badree, President, Edmonton Association of the Deaf
  • Cindy Pilz, President, Calgary Association of the Deaf
  • Board of Directors and Staff, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
  • Provincial and Organizational Affiliates, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
  • Jocelyn Mark, President, Association of Visual Sign Language Interpreters of Canada
  • Karla Pelrine, President, Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Alberta
  • Rylyn Lennox, President, Deaf Youth Canada
  • Honourable Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta
  • Honourable Danielle Larivee, Minister of Municipal Affairs, Alberta
  • Brad Pickering, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs, Alberta
  • Shane Schreiber, Managing Director, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
  • Jaclyn Hager, Executive Assistant to Managing Director, Alberta Emergency Management Agency
  • The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada
  • The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
  • The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
  • The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister Sports and Persons with Disabilities
  • Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
  • Colin Allen, President, World Federation of the Deaf
  • Debra Russell, President, World Association of Sign Language Interpreters
  • Stephen Hlibok, President, International Deaf Emergency