Fort St. James has declared a state of financial crisis after the closure of a local sawmill has left hundreds without a job.
The city issued the declaration at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and will be in effect until Aug. 15 unless otherwise cancelled or extended by Mayor Bev Playfair.
The Conifex sawmill was sold to Hampton Lumber, and then closed, in June. An estimated 230 people are now unemployed.
People affected now have access to the district’s tax deferral program, food bank, family assistance programs and mental health services.
A job fair will be hosted locally on July 31.
Playfair said she hopes the sawmill is rebuilt into a new facility that rehires most of the unemployed residents.
Mayor Bev Playfair of Fort St. James said, “the best thing we want is Hampton to come to town and build a new facility and put most of the workers back to work.”
District staff have met with Northern Health, Chief Alexander McKinnon of Nak’azdli Whut’en, the Steelworkers’ Union, Services Canada and others to determine a plan of action in transitioning people back into the workforce.
“We want the government to hear us loud and clear and pay attention to our community,” Playfair said.
“This didn’t happen yesterday or a week ago, this all started with an announcement from Conifex on Nov. 30 and then we have been curtailing ever since then.”
Playfair said that many are running out of unemployment insurance.
“The last thing we want is them moving out of the community.”