Honouring the Heroes

Rex Murphy speaks at milestone Oilsands banquet

By Kiran Malik-Khan, Connect Contributor

Westbrier Communications, organizers of the Oilsands Banquet presented a cheque for $50,000 to the Fort McMurray Fire Department Charity Fund. Photos by Joey Podlubny Photography

Westbrier Communications, organizers of the Oilsands Banquet presented a cheque for $50,000 to the Fort McMurray Fire Department Charity Fund. Photos by Joey Podlubny Photography

It was an evening commemorating Wood Buffalo’s collective woe, and celebrating our collective recovery. The 10th Annual Oilsands Banquet, presented by BMO Financial Group was hosted on November 16, 2016 at Shell Place with a theme of “Honouring the Heroes.” Hundreds of political, industry, and community leaders from many sectors were in attendance. A riveting keynote speech from well-known author and CBC commentator, Rex Murphy made the evening memorable.

Phil Enarson (left) of Westbrier Communications, organizers of the Oilsands Banquet with keynote speaker Rex Murphy

Phil Enarson (left) of Westbrier Communications, organizers of the Oilsands Banquet with keynote speaker Rex Murphy

“It’s a genuine kind of heroism and not caring for their lives for the community they love so much. It’s the spirit that gave rise to the exercise of that virtue of rescue – that you like each other, and that you love Fort McMurray,” said Murphy, who has been an avid advocate of the region.

“What have your critics ever built? Where were they when the fire happened? There’s more to you than we hear – that you’re here now within few short months, not with heads down…you have heart,” emphasized Murphy, who dubbed the oil sands the “biggest project in the world.”

 

 

“You are building and saving families. You’re supplying the most important commodity world demands incessantly. As the world criticized you – you were (still) building. But the fire alerted the world to your character,” he added.

Chief Darby Allen was touched by the event, and shared his gratitude for everyone involved with the rescue efforts.

“I’m not going to be different from anyone, I’ll say thank you a lot, It’s a wonderful gentlemen’s agreement between industry firefighters – I’ll help you when needed. On May 3, they left their jobs and came to help us; I can’t thank them enough – industry and First Nation firefighters. I don’t remember calling anyone for help – they just rode into town to help. Didn’t sleep, or eat. Thank you all. We were on our own for days. And, on day four the cavalry came in, who helped. About 28 Alberta fire departments, if I recall. Thank you all,” Allen noted.

Rob McCloy, Superintendent, Wood Buffalo RCMP was in Paris for his anniversary on May 3. He appreciated Inspector Lorna Dicks, who was in charge that day.

“It took five hours to evacuate 88,000 people. These people are more than heroes,” he said.

Two original Russell Thomas paintings were presented to both Darby Allen and Rob McCloy.

Presenting sponsor BMO Financial Group, was represented by Susan Brown, Senior VP, Alberta & NWT Division.

“She announced significant new contributions to the community totalling $1.9 million including half million dollar donations to the Fire Recovery Fund of United Way and Habitat for Humanity’s program to help the uninsured and under-insured, respectively. In their 200 year history, this represents BMO’s largest donation after a major disaster,” as per officials.

A commemorative book, “Saving Wood Buffalo,” was released at the event. The publication features numerous stories of individuals who went above and beyond before, during, and after the May 3 evacuation. The book featuring over 150 pages was published by June Warren Nickles in partnership with Westbrier Communications, and is available from the JWN website with $10 from each purchase donated to the Fort McMurray Firefighters’ Relief Fund.

A personal letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a video message from Premier Rachel Notley as well as personal thanks from Mayor Melissa Blake rounded out the event.

– Connect Weekly –