Supporting First Nations communities in emergency situations is a key priority for the Government of Canada.
We know that climate change is making natural disasters more severe, more frequent, more damaging and more expensive, and that First Nations communities-many of which border forested areas-are increasingly on the front line.
Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, announced new investments to help First Nations protect themselves from wildfires and other natural disasters.
Minister O’Regan made the announcement following an emergency management roundtable in Prince George, British Columbia, with representatives from First Nations and the Province.
Budget 2019 includes $47.72 million over five years, starting in 2019-2020, to expand the on-reserve FireSmart programs that support First Nations to enhance their capacity around wildfire management. This will contribute to First Nations’ community safety in the face of this ever-increasing threat.
FireSmart programming involves training First Nations teams in wildfire suppression duties, as well as fuel management and vegetation clearing, which reduces the intensity and spread of wildfires. FireSmart also leverages Indigenous knowledge of the local environment and terrain to improve emergency planning, preparation and response to wildfires.
FireSmart funding is in addition to $259 million from Budget 2019 dedicated over five years, starting in 2019-2020, to strengthen the capacity of First Nations to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate emergency threats. This includes:
- $211 million over five years, starting in 2019-2020, to support increased resiliency and emergency management on reserves. Investments will go towards initiatives such as First Nations-led training, emergency planning and emergency capacity building. $9.97 million of these funds will be invested over three years to support the creation of an Indigenous Fire Marshal Office that will promote fire safety and prevention on reserves.
- $48 million over four years, starting in 2020-2021, to renew funding for infrastructure projects on reserves that will protect communities from climate-related hazards.
This work supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to implement the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada (EMS), which was developed in partnership with provincial and territorial governments after consultation with Indigenous leadership and diverse stakeholders. Overall, the Government of Canada will invest $151 million over five years and $9.28 million ongoing to support the federal implementation of the Emergency Management Strategy.
“When faced with natural disasters, proper preparation and mitigation efforts can make a huge difference to protect communities. Due to climate change, many First Nations face increasing threats to their lands from wildfire and other natural hazards and have been among the hardest hit in recent natural disasters. This is why our government is making significant additional investments to combat these threats by supporting First Nations-led solutions and knowledge through FireSmart programs and First Nations-led training, emergency planning and emergency capacity building.”
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous Services
Since 2015, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has contributed approximately $3.2 million annually to First Nations to support their participation in FireSmart programs. In 2017 and 2018, FireSmart programs were funded in 43 First Nations communities through ISC’s Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP). Additional Budget 2019 funding means more communities will be able to take part.
FireSmart funding contribution agreements between ISC and partner organizations will be negotiated in the coming months, with details being announced as agreements are finalized.
In addition to the $47.72 million investment, ISC has an annual base budget of $16.6 million in annual funding for wildfire management services as part of agreements with the provinces. Funding goes toward wildfire pre-suppression and detection services and activities directed at reducing fire occurrence, including education, communication, fuel management, planning and training.