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I have had the pleasure of visiting Fort McMurray several times over the past four years and came to love this small community with a big heart. This vibrant community of individuals who had moved from different parts of Canada and also different parts of the world got hit with the drop in oil prices last year, but true to the Fort Mac spirit the residents soldiered on.

More of that resilient spirit will be needed after the recent wildfires that caused an evacuation of over 80,000 individuals. The panic of having to evacuate is unimaginable, fleeing for life with family and loved ones leaving behind homes that you know will be burnt down and what was once filled with memories and laughter. In some areas, people were given two minutes to leave!

This became personal for me, as my brother and his wife were stuck there as the raging fires threatened life and property. He initially headed north and after being stuck in the traffic ended up spending the night in his truck. He later turned and went south to Edmonton driving down a highway with flames on either side.

In this mass evacuation, what was amazing though was how the Albertans created a human chain of love, outreach and help for their neighbours up north. They drove with trucks filled with gas, water and food to the highways helping stranded drivers. Several people took in perfect strangers into their homes and hearts and provided them with a warm bed and food. Individuals even created Facebook pages that offered help with animals that people may want to be housed safely. A Ford dealership stepped up as did people from neighbouring Saskatchewan sending trailers of food supplies.

This is the unique character of Canadians. To have the compassion for a neighbour and reach out at a time of a devastating tragedy.  As immigrants, we should do our part as well. This is our country and we need to step up to do the right thing for Canadians in need and show our children the true meaning of unconditional love and compassion.

Do consider giving to the Red Cross, even if it is a small amount, every bit counts!

I always say to immigrants that while Canada is a big country, what is bigger is their hearts. And now we need to give to the people of Fort McMurray in their time of need.