As fires rage in Canada, perfect strangers become heroes and friends.

An unrelenting wildfire in Western Canada has forced the evacuation of more than 88,000 people.

The massive blaze devastated the bustling town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which was evacuated on May 3. More communities have followed suit, with Gregoire Lake Estates and Anzac residents also forced to evacuate.


A photograph from the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department shows smoke rising from a heavily wooded area. Photo by Lynn Daina /AFP/Getty Images.

Whipping winds pushed flames toward homes and businesses, as clouds of thick smoke filled the air. Residents barely had time to get out, only grabbing the bare necessities before fleeing to safety at one of the area's work camps, which are doubling as temporary shelters.

A young girl sits on a cot at a makeshift shelter. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

"For some reason I really wanted my son's first pair of shoes," evacuee Jason Blair told CBC television.

But amidst uncertainty, fear, and destruction, there are helpers and there is hope.

All across Canada, emergency response professionals, civilians, and perfect strangers are stepping up to help each other and get through this tragedy. Here are a few of the bright spots in the wake of this disaster.

1. Countless people have pitched in to donate clothes and food.

When you have to run for your life, clean clothes quickly become a luxury. Alberta residents stepped up big time for their neighbors in need. Food, diapers, and baby formula were also popular donations.

A woman sorts through donations at makeshift evacuation center in Lac La Biche, Alberta. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

And not a moment too soon.

2. Canadian airline WestJet lent a hand — er, wing — for the cause.

They flew supplies in and offered to evacuate anyone in need of medical treatment.


3. In situations like this, everyone needs water. Les Wiley took to the streets to deliver it some to people evacuating their homes.

Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

4. These workers from construction company Ledcor live at camps for long stretches, but they happily gave up their beds to people evacuating the fire.

5. These refugees from Syria are new to Calgary, but they're no stranger to loss. That's why they're helping out the evacuees.

Annalise Klingbeil of the Calgary Herald spoke with one new Canadian, who shared why she feels such a strong desire to help.

6. The community is stepping up for four-legged friends too.

The Edmonton Humane Society is rescuing and housing displaced and stray animals from the area indefinitely until the owners return to claim them. Local store Champion Petfoods is supplying free food for dogs and cats at their main office.

Hang in there, kitty. This purr-fect pet isn't in Edmonton, but lots of sweet displaced dogs and cats are. Photo by Angela N./Flickr.

Ready to pitch in? Here are the best ways to help.

If you're in Canada, especially Alberta, consider donating needed supplies to an emergency relief location. Call or tweet before you go to make sure they're accepting donations, especially the items you'd like to contribute.

Madeline Cummings of the Edmonton Examiner shared a list of needs from one emergency outpost.

And if you're not close by (or even if you are) and your budget allows, you might consider giving a monetary contribution.

When tragedy strikes, food and supplies can go a long way, but with cash, shelters can buy things in bulk, so your $5 donation may go farther than $5 spent on canned goods at the store.

No matter how you help, it's important that we come together to support each other.

In times like these, every hug, every kind word, and every donation can mean the world to someone in need. With acts of kindness big and small, all of us can help the families and communities affected by tragedy.

Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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