N.S. woman persuades Air Canada to send supplies to help injured Australian wildlife

As the charred remains of bushland from Melbourne to Sydney flashed outside the train window, Brianna MacDonald became determined to help the injured wildlife she could barely see in the smoke.

It's been less than two weeks since that journey. But the Nova Scotia woman has successfully lobbied Air Canada to send six cargo shipments to Australia that will include medical supplies and handcrafted goods made across Canada.

While the story of the 10,000-strong Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild has made headlines this week, their efforts were hampered by shipping costs.

"A lot of people knew someone who was travelling to Australia and they were planning to put their donations in that person's luggage," MacDonald said.

"But that wasn't fast enough to meet the demand and it was also hard to get the incoming supplies to where they were most needed."

That's where MacDonald's mother, Cathy, came in.

Her garage in Bedford is filled with boxes of veterinary supplies, crocheted nests and sewn slings for injured and displaced bats.

Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Her daughter, meanwhile, has met with wildlife groups and humanitarian agencies near where she now lives in Cronulla, Australia, to co-ordinate the distribution on the ground.

Although MacDonald had initially just requested that Air Canada fly out a shipment from Halifax, the airline agreed to send out five other shipments, according to an Air Canada spokesperson.

The first cargo plane will leave Halifax today. It will be filled with goods sent from all over the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

Cargo planes will also leave from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver in the next few days.

Carsten Knox/CBC
Carsten Knox/CBC

Lauren McCann helped collect knitted goods and donations in the Amherst area, putting down her thrummed mittens to crochet nests instead. Her colleagues at Oxford Frozen Foods donated funds so she could buy wool and material after seeing her work in the lunchroom.

She knows that other people will continue to drop off other handcrafted goods after the plane flies out so she's planning to use the last of those donations to send a shipment to Australia later in the month.

"If you've already started making that pouch and it's not done, don't worry about it," McCann said. "This is just the beginning of the burn season."

Submitted by Brianna MacDonald
Submitted by Brianna MacDonald

MacDonald said the level of generosity from fellow Canadians like McCann has overwhelmed her.

"Not everyone is capable of financially donating, which is 100 per cent fine, so they're finding what skills they can offer — and that is incredibly moving," she said. "A lot of them have never been here and they may never be here and they're just like, 'I will do whatever I can.'"