Continuing to support recovery after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires  

News Release

March 14, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Almost a year after the worst natural disaster in Canada’s history, the residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta, are continuing to rebuild their lives, and come to grips with the physical, mental and environmental impacts of the wildfires and evacuation. 

As part of its commitment to help in the long-term recovery of residents of Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities, the Government of Canada announced today the seven research projects to be funded through a $3.4M partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Red Cross, Alberta Innovates and other partners.

Natural disasters such as wildfires can take a significant toll on people’s mental and physical health. The projects announced today will inform policy for recovering from a natural disaster by adding to what we know about cleaning up the toxic effects of wildfires and the related health impacts. They will also help expecting mothers and newborns cope with the stress of living through a natural disaster, and ensure first responders and residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas – including Indigenous communities – impacted by the wildfire receive the right mental health supports. 


“The research projects announced today are crucial for adding to what we know about how best to help those working through the fear and stress of evacuating a natural disaster zone, losing their homes and rebuilding their lives. The Government of Canada continues to be committed to helping the residents of Fort McMurray recover and rebuild.”

- The Honourable Jane Philpott
Minister of Health 

“As a resident of Alberta, a practicing emergency physician, and a health researcher based in the province, I’m pleased that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research were able to work with the Canadian Red Cross, Alberta Innovates and other partners to fund these seven important research projects. This research will ensure we can provide the right treatments to the residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, including local Indigenous communities, and the first responders who risked their lives.”

- Dr. Brian Rowe
Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health 

“The Government of Alberta continues to work with our partners to make health and wellness supports available to Albertans affected by last May’s wildfire. We are committed to providing appropriate resources to protect the well-being and resilience of all residents and to alleviate the strain on front-line providers now and into the future. This research will help us understand how best to meet those needs.”

- The Honourable Brandy Payne
Associate Minister of Alberta Health

“Improving the health and wellbeing of Albertans is paramount for Alberta Innovates. We are proud to participate in this timely initiative that has, at its heart, the needs of Albertans.”

- Laura Kilcrease
CEO, Alberta Innovates

Quick Facts

  • The wildfires that affected Fort McMurray and other communities in northern Alberta in May 2016 forced up to 90,000 people to evacuate and destroyed more than 2,400 homes.

  • The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is home to a large population of First Nations and Métis peoples living in reserves and settlements, and in urban Fort McMurray. The building that housed the Métis Local 1935 and Athabasca Tribal Council, which provide vital services to Métis and First Nations in Wood Buffalo, were also lost.

  • More than 25,000 people in Fort McMurray have reached out for mental health support as a result of the wildfires, according to Alberta Health Services.

  • Natural disasters such as wildfires can have significant impacts on peoples’ health, including leading to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the development or recurrence of addictions, as well as physical illness caused by poor air quality and exposure to toxic ash.

Associated Links


Andrew MacKendrick
Office of the Honourable Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

David Coulombe
Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Dwayne Brunner
Manager, Media Relations
Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions

Canadian Red Cross
National media: 1‐877‐599‐9602
Alberta media: 1‐403‐541‐4431
Quebec media: 1‐888‐418‐9111

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

Alberta Innovates delivers 21st century solutions to the most compelling challenges Albertans face. Building on our province’s strengths in environment, energy, health, food, fibre and emerging technology sectors, we work with our partners to diversify Alberta’s economy, improve our environmental performance, and enhance our well-being. Through Alberta Innovates you can access technical expertise, the opportunity to establish new partnerships, and secure funding that will catalyze innovation. We support a broad range of research and innovation activity – from discovery to application. Partner with us to innovate faster.

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