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article imageDonations for Slave Lake fire victims end up in city dump

By Lynn Curwin     Aug 12, 2011 in World
Calgary - Dozens of boxes filled with clothing, toys and other items for the victims of the Slave Lake fire were recently discovered in a Calgary landfill site.
Paul Nielson, who operates a rubbish collection company, came across the boxes, which were marked as donations for Slave Lake, when he was at the Spyhill Landfill on Monday, and decided to open one.
"I opened the box and it was like a knife through my heart," he told CTV News. "I've seen lots of horror and this just shattered me. The box was full of children's clothing. Someone had gone to a store, bought children's clothing, and had the foresight to throw something in for the mother too."
He contacted a supervisor at the landfill site, who said the facility had a no-scavenging policy, and had the donations buried.
“I think basic human decency, common sense, took a back seat to procedure. Procedure was followed to the letter – bury the load instead of somebody standing up and saying, ‘Wait, stop, something’s wrong here,’ ” the Globe and Mail quoted him as saying.
Labels indicated the material in the boxes was donated by employees of Total E&P Canada Ltd. The boxes had been delivered to a drop off site rented by Melissa Gunning, who had already shipped two semi-trailer loads of donated goods to Slave Lake.
When Gunning was informed that no further donations were needed in Slave Lake she hired a removal company, which was to ensure anything usable was taken to local charities. She said she was very upset about them ending up in the landfill site.
Saphina Benimadhu, a spokeswoman for Total E&P Canada Ltd., said the collection had been an employee-led initiative and what happened was upsetting for those who tried to help.
"We had every good intention that these goods would reach the victims of Slave Lake," the CBC quoted her as saying. "It's very sad for the victims of Slave Lake who could have used this stuff, but also disheartening for employees."
Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinee said they had asked for an end to donations because they still have trailers full of unsorted goods, but she understands why people are upset about the items they had collected going to waste.
Photos from the landfill site can be seen on the CBC website.
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