Housing: Current Problems

Fire Protection on Reserves

August 26, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Budget 2019 invests in creation of Indigenous Fire Marshall Office

Government of Canada – Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, announced Budget 2019 funding of $9.97 million over three years, starting in 2019–2020, to support the creation of an Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO). The funding will support Indigenous partners in the next steps in establishing a new IFMO, including how the Office would be structured and governed, its mandate and any associated legislation. Arnold Lazare, President of the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), is the IFMO Project Lead. An Indigenous Advisory Committee is being established to support the IFMO Project to help develop the roles and responsibilities of an IFMO. An IFMO would promote fire safety and prevention, undertake public education, and support the use of fire safety, building codes and regular building inspections in Indigenous communities. More information about the project and progress to date can found at:

February 24, 2017

Fed. Govt.

Government ignores request for Indigenous Fire Marshall and building code regulations

Toronto Star – “Fire and death in First Nations”. Not including funds for an Indigenous Fire Marshall and failure to enact building code regulations for home construction on First Nations reserves. Both were recommendations from the Aboriginal Firefighters Association after the high number of fire fatalities on First Nation reserves in the last year. A Star investigation has found that at least 173 people have died in fires in First Nation communities across the country since the government stopped tracking the deaths in 2010. At least 25 of them are children.

October 30, 2018

AB, Fed. Govt.

Indigenous leaders excluded from Regional Emergency Operations Centre dealing with Fort McMurray fires

Globe and Mail – Indigenous leaders weren’t included in the Regional Emergency Operations Centre where officials from municipalities, the province and Ottawa determined what to do to address the Fort McMurray wildfires. Metis communities weren’t eligible at all.

Governments failed to consider the circumstances of Indigenous communities. Many houses damaged in the fire started off in bad shape. Fewer Indigenous homeowners were insured. About one-quarter of Indigenous people in the survey lost their homes _ a far higher percentage than in Fort McMurray as a whole. About one-third of those who lost homes had no insurance. Fort McMurray Metis spent their reserves to the point where they could not get a bank loan.

March 24, 2021

Fed. Govt.

No national fire protection code that mandates fire safety standards or enforcement on reserves

“NationTalk – There is no national fire protection code that mandates fire safety standards or enforcement on reserves. All other jurisdictions in Canada including provinces, territories, and other federal jurisdictions (such as military bases, airports, and seaports) have established building and fire codes. The Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC), National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC’s) parent organization, supports the development of a national First Nations Fire Protection Act and is willing to work with First Nations leadership as a technical resource.

In the absence of legislation act or regulations, AFAC and the NIFSC are addressing identified gaps to improve fire safety in Indigenous communities by supporting them in creating fire safety standards, doing fire protection and response research, and establishing fire safety bylaws and building standards.

Indigenous Peoples across Canada are over 5 times more likely to die in a fire compared to the rest of the population. That number increases to over 10 times for First Nations people living on reserve. Inuit are over 17 times more likely to die in a fire than non-Indigenous people. Rates among Métis were higher than non-Indigenous estimates (2.1), but these rates were not significantly different.

Fire-related injuries resulting in hospitalization are also disproportionate to Indigenous Peoples. First Nations people are over 4 times more likely, Métis are over 1.5 times more likely, and Inuit are over 5 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be hospitalized due to fire-related injuries.

What has led to this situation?

Many social determinants contribute to the higher fire-related mortality among Indigenous Peoples. These include poverty, inadequate housing conditions, housing without smoke alarms, and more.
Core capital funding provided by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), which includes funding for fire protection, is flexible. This means community leadership can use designated fire protection funds if the community has more immediate or pressing needs (e.g., a school needing repairs or social housing maintenance). Without a fire protection mandate or regulatory maintenance of fire protection standards for Indigenous communities, fire services and fire and life safety can be deprioritized or forgotten. For more information please visit the ISC website.

How the NIFSC Program will Help?

  • Offer culturally sensitive and relevant fire and life safety training and education programs that are created for and delivered by Indigenous Peoples. These services are available to First Nations populations living on reserve, leadership, and individuals working or volunteering in emergency services.
  • Launched close to 80 programs and services that provide training and ongoing support to more than 600 First Nations communities in Canada. Programs include education, support, and training in the areas of community fire safety, community governance support, community infrastructure and engineering support, fire department management, fire investigation services, and fire department operations.
  • Training, education programs and services being offered by the NIFSC Project have not previously been available to First Nations communities, whereas they have been available in most other communities in Canada
  • improve fire-related mortality and morbidity amongst Indigenous Peoples is through more accurate data collection. The creation of the National Incident Reporting System (NIRS) will, over time, provide the data regarding fire incidents in Indigenous communities that has been missing.

Other Current Problems By Theme

Indigenous Housing Reports

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Urban Indigenous Housing Srategy

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