INAN Committee News Release
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Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Comité permanent des affaires autochtones et du Nord
For immediate release
From the Ashes: Reimagining Fire Safety and Emergency Management in Indigenous Communities
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs Presents its 15th Report
Ottawa, June 19, 2018 -
Last year, wildfires forced the evacuation of 12,800 individuals from First Nation communities across the country. Compared to non-Indigenous communities, First Nation communities are disproportionally affected by these emergency events for a number of reasons, such as their relative remoteness, isolation in fire-prone areas and limited access to emergency services. With another fire season and more community evacuations upon us, the Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, today presented the Committee’s 15th report in the House of Commons, titled “From the Ashes: Reimagining Fire Safety and Emergency Management in Indigenous Communities.”
This unanimous report calls for changes to the federal framework supporting First Nations in the areas of emergency management and fire safety. Recognizing First Nations as equal partners is an essential first step in improving Canada’s approach. As such, the Committee urges that the federal government works in partnership with First Nations, provinces and territories to clarify, through trilateral agreements, the various roles and responsibilities regarding emergency management in First Nation communities.
During this study, the Committee heard of many promising initiatives, most notably, work towards the creation of a National Indigenous Fire Marshal’s Office. The Committee is in full support of this project. It will promote fire safety and prevention, and have a positive impact in these communities. The role of an Indigenous Fire Marshal’s Office should include: undertaking public education and awareness campaigns, implementing standardized training for fire safety officials, developing and enforcing fire safety standards and building codes, and conducting regular building inspections and data collection.
Furthermore, Canada must ensure that sufficient funding is provided to support preparedness activities, and to help communities develop and implement fire prevention campaigns. Not only is being proactive cost-efficient, it also saves lives. The Department of Indigenous Services Canada needs to work with First Nations to ensure that funding addresses their actual needs. The Department must also clarify the claims process and criteria for eligible expenses incurred by First Nations in emergency situations. First Nations should be reimbursed in a timely manner to allow them to return to and rebuild their communities following an emergency event.
In its report, the Committee also makes recommendations on training, the use of First Nation expertise, culturally appropriate services, evacuations and telecommunications infrastructure. It further recommends that, in British Columbia, Canada works with First Nations and the provincial government to assess and implement the recommendations of a recent independent review concluded in April 2018.
The Committee thanks all the individuals and groups who contributed to this study and shared their knowledge on the subject. This report, the result of a study in which the Committee heard from 47 witnesses and received 6 briefs, would not have been possible without their participation.
The report can be viewed online on the Committee's website.
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