Fire Fighting in Canada

Uncategorized Emergency Management
As disasters mount, First Nations’ safety has never been more pressing: Woodhouse

March 8, 2024 
By The Canadian Press


First Nations leaders gathered Wednesday to discuss how they can better prepare for the wildfires, pandemics, floods and effects of climate change that disproportionately affect their communities.

The Assembly of First Nations summit in Gatineau, Que., is the first such forum in seven years.

It follows a record-breaking wildfire season that scorched 100,000 square kilometres of land and saw dozens of First Nations communities evacuated.

It also comes four years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which found First Nations peoples and communities at a heightened risk of exposure.

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National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak said at no time has the safety of communities amid disasters been a more pressing concern.

“The unpredictability has lead to recurrent emergency evacuations forcing our people to seek support from host facilities far from their homes,” Woodhouse Nepinak said.

“The effects of cultural dislocation are far-reaching,” she said, and deeply affect the health of First Nations people and the education of youth.

She said while communities are resilient, they need equitable partnerships with other levels of government to mitigate risks, ensure speedy responses to crises and protect the land for future generations.

AFN Northwest Territories regional chief Gerald Antoine said many communities don’t have access to emergency response services, and are therefore at a disadvantage compared to their non-Indigenous neighbours.

Antoine’s region was hit hard by last summer’s blazes, and Yellowknife was forced to evacuate along with nearby First Nations.

He said emergency management policies must be standardized so that communities know what procedures to follow and First Nations can be involved in all aspects of the response.

The federal auditor general found in 2022 that Canada was failing to provide First Nations with adequate resources for emergency management services, despite crises occurring with greater intensity.

The report found Indigenous Services Canada was more reactive than preventative, despite constant calls from First Nations to bolster their capacities.

The auditor also found that Indigenous Services Canada did not know whether First Nations were receiving emergency services comparable to those in neighbouring jurisdictions.

The summit, which also includes academics and federal, provincial and territorial government officials, will wrap up on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.


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