Fire Fighting in Canada

Uncategorized Emergency Management
Cape Breton woman presents emergency alert system in Ottawa

March 20, 2024 
By The Canadian Press

Cape Breton woman presented the Unama’ki Emergency Alert System — a pioneering project designed to improve emergency response and communication within Indigenous communities in the House of Commons.

Jennifer Jesty, 48, a member of the Eskasoni First Nation band who lives in North Sydney, is the emergency resilience manager at the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq (UNSM) and has a rich first responder background as a former paramedic and firefighter. Her creation, the Unama’ki Alert System, has been operational since September 2020, significantly enhancing safety protocols for five First Nations in Cape Breton.

“4,127 — that’s how many people are registered to receive alerts across our five Cape Breton Indigenous communities, for which I created our very own Unama’ki Emergency Alert System. 183 — that’s how many alerts we’ve sent since its inception. 67 — that’s how many young people we have reunited with their families because of the alerts,” Jesty told members of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Her testimony not only highlighted her system’s effectiveness in Cape Breton but also its potential as a model for the proposed national Red Dress Alert System, aimed at addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. Jesty’s passion for the project was evident as she shared her vision with the committee.


“I’ve lived and breathed this system now for three years. I would love to take this system to every single Indigenous community across this entire country. That’s my perfect world,” said Jesty.

Jesty’s dedication has already led to the expansion of the alert system to other Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada, with successful implementations in Lennox Island and Conn River.

“I’ve already set up the alert system in Lennox Island in Prince Edward Island, and I’m heading over to Conn River in Newfoundland in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “I was able to help them both do their funding proposals, too, so they were able to get funded from Indigenous Services Canada.”

The discussion in the House of Commons revealed a consensus on the urgent need for a nationwide alert system like the one Jesty developed. MP Michelle Ferreri highlighted the significance of community leadership in such initiatives, asking Jesty about her thoughts on government involvement. Jesty held that the system should be supported by the government but owned and led by Indigenous communities.

“No, I don’t believe that this should be government-run. It should be community led just as our alert system is. It was designed by Indigenous for Indigenous, and I do believe that’s the way the alert system for the Red Dress campaign is going to be most effective,” said Jesty. “What needs to happen is you need to do something. I didn’t get it right; right out of the gate, we made some mistakes in the very beginning, and I do believe for the red dress alert, It’s not going to be perfect right out of the gate either. But it’s time to do something.”

The Unama’ki Emergency Alert System’s success stems from its community-focused approach, allowing for immediate action without bureaucratic delays. Jesty recounted an incident where a potential threat to a young Indigenous female was swiftly addressed by issuing an alert, illustrating the system’s responsiveness and its critical role in ensuring community safety.

The federal government’s interest in replicating Jesty’s system nationwide acknowledges the effectiveness and necessity of such community-led initiatives. MP Anna Roberts inquired about the future of reaching non-subscribers. Jesty says the system in Cape Breton has received broad support from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous users, demonstrating the system’s potential as a model for national implementation.

“We do have non-Indigenous people signing up for the system. They see that our success, our system, is successful, that we are delivering information in a timely fashion, and we were getting it out to them quickly,” she said. “People are information hungry. They want to know more information for their own personal safety. So, if our alert system attracts non-Indigenous users, that’s wonderful. I welcome them with open arms.”

As the discussion on the Red Dress Alert System progresses, Jesty’s Unama’ki Emergency Alert System offers a powerful blueprint for how community-driven solutions can address long-standing challenges and enhance safety for Indigenous women and communities across Canada.

Jesty hopes the feds heed her words, as lives are at stake.

“I would love to take this alert system to every single Indigenous community in this entire country. Would it save lives? I believe it already has.”

Print this page


Stories continue below