TORONTO and OTTAWA — Mining magnate Peter Munk is donating $1-million to the Canadian Red Cross to help the thousands of people who have been displaced by the wildfires in the Fort McMurray area – a crisis that the philanthropist said reminds him of his own past as a refugee and marks an opportunity for Canadians to unite.
The Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation will on Friday announce the pledge, which will build on the roughly $11-million in donations that have flowed to the Red Cross fund dedicated to supporting those affected by the fire. The federal government announced Thursday that it will match all charitable donations to the organization, including those that had already been made.
Jean-Philippe Tizi, vice-president of emergency management at the Red Cross, said the money will be used to meet the immediate physical and psychological needs of affected citizens. But he added that the donations will also be used to help people rebuild their lives. “It’s going to take four or five years, but we’ll be there as long as it takes,” he said.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Munk said the footage of residents fleeing a burning city conjured thoughts of his own parents escaping a besieged Budapest during the Second World War. “It’s very real to me,” he said, adding that he was fortunate enough to have made his way to Switzerland by that time.
The Barrick Gold Corp. founder said the tragedy is a chance for Canadians to express their “total solidarity,” no matter their background or economic status. When the roads became clogged with cars evacuating Fort McMurray, it was impossible to tell who was rich or poor, Jewish or Muslim, Mr. Munk said.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “This particular event, more than any other, is a great occasion for Canadians to show that we have the same values as the people who created this country and received all of us. … No country had more open arms than us.”
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