Loss of Homes

Record-breaking climate disasters reveal cracks in Canada’s alert system

Burned remnants of houses. Rusted metal and a charcoal tree.
Pippa Norman
With files from James Westman, Tessa Bennett, Maria Kestane, Scott McLaughlin and Antonio Pelaez Barcelo. Edited By Trish Audette-Longo.

A private company that owns Canada’s weather and disaster alert system was recently granted a three-year broadcasting licence renewal, sidestepping the opportunity for public input.

Pelmorex received an administrative licence renewal Aug. 8 for its system — publicly known as Alert Ready — by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), with no public consultation.

The extension was granted despite a spate of complaints this summer about delayed or missed alerts during extreme weather events, some of which had devastating consequences for the communities where they occurred.

The only reason given by the CRTC for choosing an administrative renewal is to allow time for the commission to update its policies following Broadcasting Act amendments related to the implementation of the new Online Streaming Act in April.

But this choice comes at a time when emergency alerts are more important than ever. Disasters such as fires and floods are happening more frequently due to human-caused climate change and one-in-a-1,000-year weather events continue to shatter expectations.

A saga of record-breaking climate disasters has revealed cracks in the country’s alert system that have adversely affected some of the lives of Canadians who need it the most.

Read more about the Climate Disaster Project and Canada’s National Observer’s findings.

This story was originally published by Canada’s National Observer, on Aug. 18, 2023.

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