Auditor-General of Canada: Ottawa —A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons found that Indigenous Services Canada did not provide First Nations communities with the support they need to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies such as floods and wildfires, which are increasing in both frequency and intensity. Over the last 13 years, more than 1,300 emergencies have occurred in First Nations communities, causing more than 130,000 people to be evacuated and displaced.
The audit found that First Nations communities had identified many infrastructure projects that would mitigate the impact of emergencies. The department has a backlog of 112 of these infrastructure projects that it has approved but not funded. Meanwhile, it is spending 3.5 times more money on responding to and recovering from emergencies than on providing communities with the support that would help them prevent these emergencies or enhance their abilities to respond to them. Indigenous Services Canada’s actions were consistently more reactive than preventative. According to Public Safety Canada, for every $1 invested in preparedness and mitigation, $6 can be saved in emergency response and recovery costs.
Many of the issues noted in this audit were first raised in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s 2013 audit of emergency management on reserves. For example, Indigenous Services Canada still had not identified which First Nations communities most need support to increase their capacity to prepare for emergencies. If the department identified these communities, it could target investments accordingly—for example, to build culverts and dikes to prevent or reduce the impact of seasonal floods. This would help to minimize costs that the department is currently incurring to help First Nations communities respond to and recover from emergencies.
The audit also found that Indigenous Services Canada did not know whether First Nations communities received services that were culturally appropriate and comparable to those provided to similar non‑Indigenous communities.
“Over the last 4 fiscal years, Indigenous Services Canada has spent about $828 million on emergency management,” said Ms. Hogan. “Funding and building approved infrastructure projects, such as culverts and dikes to prevent seasonal floods, would help minimize the impact on people and the cost of responding to and recovering from emergencies.”
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The 2022 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 8—Emergency Management in First Nations Communities—Indigenous Services Canada is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.
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8.32 Indigenous Services Canada should work with First Nations to implement a risk-based approach to inform program planning and decisions on where to invest in preparedness and mitigation activities to maximize support to communities at highest risk of being affected by emergencies.
8.36 Indigenous Services Canada should work with First Nations communities to address the backlogs of eligible but unfunded structural mitigation projects and of unreviewed structural mitigation projects to effectively allocate resources to reduce the impact of emergencies on First Nationscommunities.
8.39 Indigenous Services Canada should, on the basis of an assessment of risks, regularly update outdated departmental and regional emergency management plans and take immediate action to develop regional emergency management plans for the 3 regions that do not have them. These plans should be used to make informed decisions and take concrete actions to assist First Nations communities with managing the risks related to emergencies.
8.42 Indigenous Services Canada, in collaboration with First Nations, should determine how many emergency management coordinator positions are required and allocate funding for these positions on the basis of risk and need to ensure that First Nations have sustained capacity to manage emergencies.
8.62 Indigenous Services Canada should, in collaboration with First Nations, provincial governments, and other service providers, ensure that First Nations communities receive the emergency management services they need by:
- establishing emergency management service agreements and wildfire agreements in all jurisdictions that include all First Nations
- establishing mutually agreed-upon evacuation service standards in the jurisdictions that lack such standards
- increasing support for First Nations–led approaches to emergency management8.66 Indigenous Services Canada should develop performance indicators to allow the department
to measure progress against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and use these indicators to track and report publicly on progress.
8.68 Indigenous Services Canada should, in collaboration with First Nations, provincial governments, and other service providers, ensure that First Nations communities receive the emergency management services they need by
- defining what is meant by comparable services for First Nations in relation to those available to municipalities of similar size and circumstance in each jurisdiction
- monitoring the services provided to First Nations to ensure that they are comparable to services provided to non-Indigenous communities, are culturally appropriate, and address the needs of marginalized groups
- identifying and addressing shortcomings by monitoring emergency management service agreements and conducting lessons-learned exercises
To view the complete report including the government responses click on the following link.