Why some Nova Scotians are frustrated by Fiona relief process

Fallen trees lean against a house in Sydney, N.S., on Sept. 24, 2022, after Fiona swept through the region.  (Vaughan Merchant/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Fallen trees lean against a house in Sydney, N.S., on Sept. 24, 2022, after Fiona swept through the region. (Vaughan Merchant/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Many people are still waiting for aid nearly two months after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through Atlantic Canada.

Over the weekend in Antigonish County, N.S., Canadian Red Cross reception centres saw more than 200 people register for the storm money. This was specifically for local residents who still required an in-person meeting to finalize their application.

The centres were set up to register people for Fiona-related financial aid from either of two programs being administered in this province by the Red Cross.

This includes the one-time $1,000 payments on behalf of the province to a small number of households, and one-time $500 payments on behalf of Canadian Red Cross donors to eligible households that have indicated they are unable to meet basic needs as a direct result of Fiona.

Clyde Nunn tried to register in person on Sunday, but the reception centre shut down before he got there.

"I don't want the Red Cross thinking that I'm mad at them," Nunn said.

"It's just something that happens. It's like an accident that happens. But it's not hard to fix it. Just have another couple of meetings. Don't just say you're going to leave us in the lurch."

A spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross said in an email that 274 households were processed in the Antigonish area over the weekend, and that the team sent there usually operates out of New Glasgow.

The organization noted there were fewer people coming to register on Saturday compared to Sunday, but Nunn said he only happened to hear on radio the day before that it was happening.

The Canadian Red Cross said once it reached capacity in Antigonish for the day "any others who could not be seen were reminded of other ongoing options."

The Canadian Red Cross reception centres are separate from its other operations in the province. They were set up only to deal with Fiona-related financial aid from the two programs.

Millions of dollars distributed

The Canadian Red Cross said $1,000 payments from the Nova Scotia government have been distributed so far to at least 269 households approved by the government.

The $500 being administered on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross donors have been administered to date to at least 23,322 Nova Scotia households. The organization said this works out to be $11.6 million worth of aid.

Nunn said he was told if he wanted to register in person he would now need to travel to New Glasgow.

The only other sites in Nova Scotia currently able to provide in-person Red Cross support with Fiona-related financial aid are reception centres in New Glasgow and Sydney. Dates and hours of operation are online under listings by province.

More dates needed

"It's not that easy for people that don't have transportation and that was what the problem was for me," said Nunn, who doesn't own a vehicle.

Nunn said the Canadian Red Cross should add more registration dates to Antigonish County.

It's not rocket science, it's common sense," he said. "Just make it as easy as you can."