Matching Fiona relief donations from Ottawa not yet delivered to Red Cross

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Funds promised by Ottawa to help the Canadian Red Cross with relief efforts following post-tropical storm Fiona have not yet been received.

Public Safety Canada promised in September to match donations received by the Red Cross through the charity's fundraising appeal between Sept. 24 and Oct. 31.

Work is ongoing "to finalize the donations during this period eligible for federal fund matching, and to share the final amount raised thanks to the generosity of Canadians from coast to coast to coast," said department spokesperson Tim Warmington in an email Thursday.

The Canadian Red Cross says it has provided the federal government with a summary of the donations it feels are eligible to be matched.

"It’s then the prerogative of the federal government, not the Red Cross, to announce the amount government has approved as a matching contribution," said charity spokesperson Dan Bedell in an email Wednesday.

Post-tropical storm Fiona tore through the East Coast on the morning of Sept. 24, causing widespread damage in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The storm knocked down trees and power lines across Atlantic Canada, and it washed away several homes in southwestern Newfoundland.

In Port aux Basques, N.L., a community of approximately 3,500 people, about 100 homes have been condemned because of the destruction wrought by Fiona. Most of those homeowners have been denied coverage from their insurance providers.

The Red Cross launched a fundraising campaign, called the Hurricane Fiona in Canada Appeal, to help those affected by the storm, which tore through places like Puerto Rico as a hurricane but was downgraded by the time it reached Canada.

As of Nov. 17, Bedell said the campaign had raised about $31 million in donations, approximately $27.3 million of which had been distributed or committed in the form of one-time $500 payments to affected households across the region. Almost all of the money went to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, where many residents lost power.

Bedell said Wednesday he could not say how the agency spent the remainder of the donations, adding that discussions were ongoing with provincial governments about how to spend any remaining contributions.

"In due course we plan a publicly available update on the status of our Hurricane Fiona in Canada Appeal and how the funds have been spent," Bedell said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2022.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press