National On-reserve All Hazards Emergency Management Plan

Table of contents

From the Deputy Minister

I am pleased to present the Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) National On-reserve All Hazards Emergency Management Plan.

In partnership with First Nations communities, provincial and territorial governments and non-government organizations, we will continue to support eligible communities on reserve access to emergency assistance services.

First Nation communities have and continue to be significantly disproportionately affected by communicable diseases, increased weather events, and public health emergencies related to climate change, natural hazards, including major floods, forest fires, and hurricanes. This pattern reflects the increasing frequency and intensity of emergencies throughout Canada.

We must work to address the legacy of colonial practices that have led to different exposures, impacts, and capacities to respond to and recover from emergencies facing First Nations. This has contributed to First Nation communities being more vulnerable to natural hazards due to their geographic remoteness, low population density, and associated capacity gaps.

Using the fundamental principles of reconciliation, we will continue to work together to improve access to high quality emergency management services for eligible First Nations communities on reserve. This important work will enable us to build climate resiliency, support self-determination and Indigenous-led service delivery, and to address the fundamental issue of closing socio-economic gaps.

Gina Wilson
Deputy Minister, Indigenous Services Canada

Section 1: Introduction

The Indigenous Services Canada National On-reserve All Hazards Emergency Management Plan presents an overview of the relevant federal authorities and jurisdictions related to Emergency Management and defines the roles and responsibilities of ISC in working with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that on-reserve First Nations have access to emergency assistance services comparable to those available elsewhere in Canada.

Through the Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP), the department provides funding to First Nations communities so they can build resiliency, prepare for natural hazards and respond to them using the 4 pillars of emergency management:

As the department provides funding for emergency management services, the scope of the plan includes an overview of the role of ISC. The National On-reserve Emergency Management Plan is meant to provide an overview of the department's role in emergency management for eligible, on-reserve First Nation communities at a national level. Indigenous Services Canada Regional Offices have developed and maintain their own plans outlining important information regarding emergency management in their respective regions.

The federal government plays an important role in the delivery of emergency management services to First Nations communities. This includes 2 aspects of health emergencies:

  1. Public health emergencies, such as the spread of communicable diseases (COVID-19, measles, HIV, syphilis, TB and so on) pandemics, food and water borne outbreaks, environmental health hazards (water contamination, air quality, and so on), and other health emergencies such as suicide clusters and opioid crises.
  2. Health aspects of natural disasters, including risks related to the continuity of health care for those with existing medical conditions, as well as the public health and mental wellness impacts of community evacuations and emergencies.

The Emergency Management Plan is intended to be used to make informed decisions and take concrete actions to assist First Nations communities with managing the risks related to emergencies.

1.1 Authorities and legislation

The Minister of Public Safety is responsible for coordinating emergency management activities among federal government institutions and in cooperation with provinces, territories and other entities.

The Emergency Management Act states that each federal minister is responsible for the identification of risks that are within, or related to their area of responsibility, including those related to critical infrastructure, such as food supply, electricity grids, transportation, communications and public safety systems.

Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 prescribes the legislative authority of the Government of Canada for ‟Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.ˮ This authority is delegated to the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada as per the Indian Act and the Department of Indigenous Services Act.

The Emergency Management Assistance Program's (EMAP) terms and conditions support First Nations communities in building resiliency, preparing for and responding to natural hazards, as well as responding to the health aspects of emergencies caused by natural or accidental hazards and public health emergencies. EMAP recognizes that emergency management responsibilities in Canada are shared by federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as First Nations and their partners, including individual citizens who have a responsibility to be prepared for disasters and contribute to community resiliency.

ISC's Transfer Payment Authority; Contributions to Support the Construction and Maintenance of Community Infrastructure is the principal vehicle for the provision of community infrastructure funding to First Nations communities, including structural mitigation projects and fire protection. The department allocates funding for the construction and the maintenance of community infrastructure to First Nations at the regional level through formula, proposal-based project funding or as a combination of both.

1.2 Whole-of-government approach to emergency management

Disasters are increasing in frequency and magnitude, underscoring the need for a cohesive approach to emergency management that emphasizes risk mitigation while continuing to strengthen preparedness, response and recovery capabilities. As stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan, establishing a federally-led Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Indigenous (FPTI) working group on Indigenous emergency management comprised of federal senior officials, national Indigenous organization leaders and provincial and territorial representatives is a priority area for the whole of Canada.

The Federal Emergency Response Plan developed by Public Safety Canada identifies and describes the mechanisms and processes that are used for emergency management by the Government of Canada. It is designed to harmonize federal emergency response efforts with those of the provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Additionally, Public Safety Canada's Emergency Management Framework for Canada (Emergency Management Framework) is the overarching document that guides how federal, provincial and territorial governments assess risks and work together to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to Canadians. This is done in collaboration with First Nations, Métis and Inuit, municipalities, Indigenous communities, tri-services, academia, volunteer and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Given that all levels of government have a responsibility for emergency management and public safety in Canada, the Emergency Management Framework also establishes the mechanisms and principles to strengthen federal, provincial and territorial collaboration and ensure more coordinated, complementary actions among the federal, provincial, and territorial governmental initiatives.

Canada has also adopted the United Nations' Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework) which establishes international priorities for disaster risk reduction. It takes into consideration important linkages with climate adaptation, and reflects the shared responsibility among all sectors of society to enhance resilience. The Sendai Framework sets out 4 strategic priorities that align well with Canada's approach to disaster risk reduction, and the Emergency Management Framework Canada is committed to implementing the Sendai Framework domestically, including through complementary elements of the Emergency Management Framework, including:

  1. Improving understanding of risk
  2. Strengthening governance
  3. Increasing investment in disaster reduction and mitigation
  4. Enhancing preparedness and recovery to build back better following a disaster

Section 2: Risk environment

ISC's risk environment is consistent with Canada's risk environment which includes natural and human-induced (both intentional and unintentional) hazards such as wildland and urban-interface fires, floods, hazardous material spills, transportation accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, health emergencies and major power outages.

The most common emergencies affecting First Nations are floods, fires and failures of community infrastructure, for example, winter roads, bridges, water sources, housing due to natural hazards or accident and extreme weather events.

Each region faces its own particular risk environment. More detailed information on each regions' risk assessments can be found in their individual emergency management plans.

Section 3: Scope

This Plan applies to emergencies that have the potential to threaten the health, safety and security of First Nations communities and outlines ISC's approach to supporting emergency management on First Nation communities. It is not meant to replace provincial, territorial regional or community procedures and plans but merely to complement them from a federal perspective.

In Canada, 4 pillars of emergency management have been adopted and are taken into consideration in all aspects of emergency planning and operations:

ISC supports First Nations in mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities. Emergencies that are within the scope of ISC's responsibilities can be defined as immediate threats to health, safety and business continuity on First Nations reserves. In brief, the objectives of ISC's approach to emergency management in First Nations communities are to:

Incidents which impact ISC employees and/or assets, or which are directly related to internal departmental business continuity planning are outside the scope of this current document. Events which have the potential to impact the health, safety and business continuity of ISC assets and employees fall under the scope of ISC's Administration Services Branch's Security and Emergency Services and National Accommodation Directorates. These Directorates are responsible for the safety of ISC employees and assets, and safeguarding of information as per the Policy on Government Security. The Security and Accommodation Division also works with the Corporate Services Branch to help implement business continuity protocols when necessary.

Other stakeholders also have a role to play in emergency management in First Nations communities, as summarized in the Roles and Responsibilities section below.

Section 4: Roles and responsibilities

Emergency management can involve a number of different stakeholders, each with their own roles and responsibilities. Depending on the circumstances, assistance is sought from local, provincial and territorial authorities, with provincial and territorial governments requesting federal government support for emergencies that are beyond their capacity. ISC supports First Nations to sit at Federal/Provincial/Territorial/First Nations tables for co-planning to ensure that on-reserve First Nations communities have access to emergency assistance services comparable to those available elsewhere in Canada.

4.1 Individuals

The responsibility to deal with emergency incidents starts at home with the individual. The Government of Canada suggests individuals be prepared to care for themselves and their families for a minimum of 72 hours by following the Get Prepared program.

As the capacity of the individual to cope with the emergency incident diminishes, the responsibility shifts to successive levels of government as the resources and expertise of each are needed. This recognizes that when an emergency occurs people will see to their own safety to the greatest extent possible before seeking outside assistance.

4.2 First Nations

In order to ensure that emergencies are managed as efficiently as possible at the community level, First Nations including National and Regional Indigenous Organizations, are encouraged to do the following:

  • conduct a hazard, risk and vulnerability assessment of their communities
  • create an effective emergency management plan and ensure it is maintained and exercised
  • conduct public emergency response training, hazard awareness and education programs
  • provide leadership and direction during an emergency situation

4.3 Provinces and territories

Provinces and territories govern provincial or territorial emergency management organizations that coordinate response activities, conduct planning and research, provide training and administer and deliver disaster financial assistance programs in their respective province or territory.

In most provinces, in order to fulfill ISC's responsibility to support First Nations in emergency management, the department ensures that First Nations communities have access to emergency service programs comparable to municipalities of similar size and circumstance through negotiated service agreements between the ISC, provinces and territories and other stakeholders. These agreements help to ensure successful coordinated response and recovery efforts, clarify roles and responsibilities and support enhanced preparedness activities including training and capacity building for the development of more robust emergency plans for First Nations communities.

4.4 Government of Canada

Most emergencies are local in nature and are managed at the community or provincial/territorial level. The federal government can become involved when requests for assistance are received due to capacity limitations and the scope of the emergency. First Nations are actively working with Indigenous Services Canada in all parts of the country to take on services and programs, and to look at new agreements that offer more flexibility. ISC supports the transfer of services to Indigenous partners as the best way to improve services. This will provide Indigenous organizations with an opportunity to collaborate in the development, provision, assessment and improvement of the services.

Under the federal Emergency Management Act, the Minister of Public Safety is responsible for coordinating the Government of Canada's response to an emergency or disaster of national significance. Public Safety Canada is responsible for exercising leadership relating to emergency management in Canada by coordinating emergency management activities among government institutions and in cooperation with the provinces, territories and other entities. Public Safety Canada has no specific legislated responsibilities for on-reserve emergency management for First Nations communities.

Other federal departments also play a role in emergency management in First Nations communities when an incident falls under their area of responsibility.

4.4.1 Government Operations Centre

The Government Operations Centre (GOC) provides an all-hazards integrated federal emergency response to events of national interest (potential or actual, natural or human-induced, accidental or intentional). It provides 24/7 monitoring and reporting, national-level situational awareness, warning products and integrated risk assessments, as well as national-level planning and whole-of-government response management. During periods of heightened response, the GOC is augmented by staff from other government departments/agencies (OGD) and non-governmental organizations (NGO).

ISC works with the Government Operations Centre by providing situational awareness, subject matter experts and by participating in emergency management exercises and emergency event planning.

4.4.2 Indigenous Services Canada

As part of a more comprehensive approach to emergency management in First Nation communities, the Government of Canada has introduced a single window to secure funding for First Nation emergency costs. Indigenous Services Canada is responsible for costs for emergency events in First Nations communities which previously may have been eligible for reimbursement under Public Safety Canada's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. This single window provides eligible First Nations, provinces and territories with improved access to emergency funding when needed.

ISC Regional Operations and ISC First Nations and Inuit Heath Branch (FNIHB) are jointly working with First Nations, provincial and territorial governments, as well as other stakeholders to update or put in place agreements related to the delivery of emergency management services to First Nations communities. These agreements ensure First Nations have access to comparable emergency assistance and support and will also provide certainty regarding eligible First Nation emergency management costs so that responses can be implemented rapidly and without unnecessary delay. Minister of Indigenous Services Canada

ISC's Minister is the lead federal minister responsible for supporting emergency mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery in First Nations communities across Canada. Regional Operations Senior Assistant Deputy Minister

ISC's Regional Operations Sector's Senior Assistant Deputy Minister plays an important role in the working relationship between ISC Headquarters and ISC Regions. The Regional Operations Sector's Senior Assistant Deputy Minister is responsible for the delivery of national and regional programs and services in all reserve lands south of the 60th parallel and certain lands set aside in the Yukon. National Capital Region Emergency Management Directorate

The main roles and responsibilities of ISC's Emergency Management Directorate in the National Capital Region in emergency management are threefold: (1) acting as a funding mechanism for emergency management activities in First Nations communities, as well as to other eligible communities; (2) providing situational awareness to senior officials within Indigenous Services Canada, Public Safety Canada and the general federal emergency management community and partners; and (3) developing policy to support emergency management planning and operations in First Nations communities including mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities. Regions

ISC regional offices support the Emergency Management Assistance Program by:

  • helping to build and enhance partnerships with First Nations and other public, private and non-governmental sector emergency partners
  • establishing and implementing strategic projects and initiatives to support First Nations communities under the 4 pillars of emergency management
  • lead/support operational response for natural disasters, including shelter in place solutions and evacuation
  • providing advice and guidance on program activities
  • providing tools and resources for emergency planning and training
  • informing headquarters about on-reserve First Nations under risk of, or experiencing emergencies
  • overseeing multilateral agreements between provinces/territories and ISC for the delivery of emergency response services and management programs
  • support in locating and coordinating funding, and advocating for communities
  • ensuring funding applications are justifiable, defensible and align with the Emergency Management Assistance Program's terms and conditions
  • facilitating the development, maintenance, testing and implementation of regional emergency management plans

Regional Director Generals (DGs) are responsible for overseeing the involvement of their regional offices in emergency incidents in their respective regions, which includes coordination with local authorities, First Nations and emergency management organizations. Regional DGs are also responsible for ensuring that timely situational awareness is provided to ISC headquarters and for providing financial oversight of expenditures during emergency incidents.

The department's regional offices also work in collaboration with First Nations to establish and prioritize 5-year capital plans according to the Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program's National Priority Ranking Framework. The highest priority is assigned to projects which mitigate the most urgent health and safety risks. Protection of assets through adequate operation and maintenance is also key to mitigating health and safety concerns and ensuring that existing and new assets reach their full life cycle.

ISC regional offices are responsible for developing, exercising, implementing and maintaining Regional Emergency Management Plans. These regional plans include important context and specificities related to each region and are included as appendices to this national plan. First Nations and Inuit Health Branch

The Health Emergency Management Unit at First Nations and Inuit Health Branch supports the emergent health aspects of natural disasters and public health emergencies by building relationships with communities to better understand and; using strength-based approaches, support the immediate and self-determined needs of each community. The program provides governance for inclusive, holistic emergency management (working with FNIHB's Mental Wellness, Environmental Public Health and Communicable Disease Control divisions) and facilitates Regional supports by way of regional coordinators. The goal is to be relationship based, versus transactional in nature, with the understanding that to meet community needs, the program must be flexible, adaptive, and inclusive of the pillars of emergency management (in other words preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery).

The Health Emergency Management Unit reports to the Chief Medical Office of Public Health. In a national public health emergency, such as a pandemic or an outbreak, FNIHB's Chief Medical Officer of Public Health is responsible for:

  • directing the national health emergency response through the HQ Health Emergency Operations Centre
  • briefing and advising the Deputy Minister and the Minister
  • working with counterparts at EMAP, Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Safety Canada and other departments and jurisdictions, as well as with technical experts, to communicate with First Nations communities about how to protect themselves
  • delivering public health advice and guidance to First Nations communities via media appearances, press conferences, public statements, or updates to the ISC website
  • providing direction to FNIHB staff, including Regional Medical Officers, Public Health Surge Teams, scientists and epidemiologists, as they plan for and respond to the emergency

The main roles and responsibilities of FNIHB's Health Emergency Management unit in the National Capital Region in emergency management are:

  • supporting regional and First Nations community preparedness, capacity building, and knowledge mobilization for health emergency management activities
  • advocating for and ensuring health emergency funding requests align with the Emergency Management Assistance Program's terms and conditions for response and recovery activities
  • representing or managing department or interdepartmental working groups
  • providing situational awareness to senior officials within FNIHB
  • developing policy to support health emergency management planning and operations in First Nations communities

ISC regions are responsible for supporting First Nations to co-plan and co-respond with provinces and municipalities for emergencies impacting First Nations.

FNIHB's Regional Executives (REs) work in collaboration with the Regional DGs to carry out the roles and responsibilities outlined in section Communications

The Communications and Public Affairs Sector is the lead for the Crisis Communications Response efforts and provides expert support and strategic public communications advice on issues relating to the public and media environment for emergencies involving First Nations.

The Regional Strategic Communications Directorate within the Sector is responsible for leading the crisis communications approach to support First Nations facing an emergency situation and takes a holistic view in ensuring that all communications efforts not only focus on the departmental support provided under the Emergency Management Assistance Program, but also on health and social supports available to First Nation individuals. This includes:

  • identifying surge support teams when required to support the crisis communications approach roll-out, which functions such as: strategic communications, digital, media relations, creative product development, internal communications and others as required
  • provision of strategic advice and guidance to ISC Regional Operations Sector nationally and regionally on the recommended communications approach
  • participating in dedicated emergency management calls federally, provincially, territorially or regionally
  • working with impacted First Nations, where possible, to support communications efforts
  • working in close collaboration with Public Safety, other federal departments, and provinces and territories to ensure consistent messaging
  • providing timely web updates to ensure displaced individuals know where to obtain supports from the department
  • providing expert advice and guidance and support to CIRNAC communications teams north of 60

The Regional Strategic Communications Directorate has dedicated Regional Communications teams that provide expert communications advice and support to all ISC Regions and are responsible for:

  • liaising with program officials to provide timely communications support to Nations
  • participating in regional Provincial Emergency Operations Centre discussions, and/or discussions with partners, to obtain situation updates in a timely fashion which inform the overall communications approach

Depending on the scope, regional and/or headquarters communications staff play a key role in managing external communications by ensuring that media outlets are kept informed and up-to-date. They also have an important role in supporting emergency management by preparing and releasing critical departmental communications externally and internally. Employees

In some cases, ISC employees may be called upon to perform a liaison role.

Liaison officers are individuals that act as the link between 2 organizations to communicate and coordinate their activities. ISC liaison officers provide a link between ISC, the Government Operations Centre, First Nations communities, regional emergency management organizations, and various other stakeholders. Acting as subject matter experts, liaison officers provide information on ISC's roles, responsibilities, mandates and plans, as well as timely situational awareness. Other entities

At the request of a First Nation community, ISC, a province or territory, a non-government organization (for example the Canadian Red Cross) or another Indigenous organization, may support the management of an emergency.

Once identified, these entities become part of the First Nation's emergency planning process, and should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities outlined within the First Nation's all-hazards emergency management plan in order to develop an integrated emergency management structure, processes and procedures with all stakeholders.

Section 5: Financial management

ISC is responsible for all costs for emergency events on-reserve and to other eligible communities

The Emergency Management Assistance Program, the Capital Facilities Maintenance Program and the First Nation Infrastructure Fund are the key federal funding agents for the 4 pillars of emergency management for on-reserve lands. The Emergency Management Assistance Program funds non-structural mitigation, preparedness and response and recovery costs, whereas the Capital Facilities Maintenance Program and the First Nations Infrastructure Fund provide investments in structural mitigation infrastructure.

With the exception of upfront service agreement funding for provincial, territorial and third-party service providers; wildfire management services funding and First Nation capacity enhancement funding, the Emergency Management Assistance Program funding for emergency preparedness and non-structural mitigation projects is distributed annually to ISC Regional Offices based on a risk based formula. Allocations to recipients are proposal based. The program's funding is based on a claim submission. All proposals and claims are to be submitted to and reviewed by the appropriate ISC Regional Office and then forwarded to ISC Headquarters for final review and approval. All costs must be defensible and align with the Emergency Management Program's Terms and Conditions as well as provincial and territorial norms.

Funding for structural mitigation projects is disbursed in accordance with established arrangements under the Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program, the First Nations Infrastructure Fund and more specifically, through ISC's annual capital planning process. Potential projects are placed on the First Nation Infrastructure Investment Plan for ISC staff to review against internal ranking frameworks and local needs and priorities to guide investment decisions.

Appendix A: Glossary

Emergency management in Canada adopts an all-hazards approach by addressing vulnerabilities exposed by both natural and human-induced hazards and disasters. This also includes the health aspects of emergencies caused by natural or accidental hazards and public health emergencies, including outbreaks, mental health and other social emergencies. This approach increases efficiency by recognizing and integrating common emergency management elements across all hazard types and then supplementing these common elements with hazard-specific sub-components to fill gaps only as required. It emphasizes the leveraging of synergies common across hazards and maintaining a streamlined and robust emergency management system and improves the ability of emergency management activities to address unknown hazards or risks.
Essentially a social phenomenon that results when a hazard intersects with a vulnerable community in a way that exceeds or overwhelms the community's ability to cope and may cause serious harm to the safety, health, welfare, property or environment of people. This may be triggered by a naturally occurring phenomenon which has its origins within the geophysical or biological environment or by human action or error, whether malicious or unintentional, including technological failures, accidents and terrorist acts.
A present or imminent event that requires prompt coordination of actions concerning persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people, or to limit damage to property or the environment.
Emergency management plan:
As defined in the Emergency Management Act, a program, arrangement or other measure for dealing with an emergency by the civil population, or for dealing with a civil emergency by the Canadian Forces in accordance with the National Defence Act.
First Nation:
A term that came into common usage in the 1970s. Although the term First Nation is widely used, no legal definition of it exists. The term "First Nation" is used to replace the word "Band" in the name of a community.
A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.
Non-government organization:
A non-profit organization that is based on the interests of its members (individuals, or institutions) that is not created by government, but may work cooperatively with government. Such organizations serve a public purpose, not a private benefit. Examples of non-governmental organizations include faith-based charity organizations and the Canadian Red Cross.
The combination of the likelihood and the consequence of a specified hazard being realized. This refers to the vulnerability, proximity or exposure to hazards, which affects the likelihood of an adverse impact.
Situational awareness:
The continual process of collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence, information or knowledge. This process allows organizations and individuals to anticipate requirements and to respond effectively.
Structural mitigation infrastructure:
Physical infrastructure built to reduce or mitigate the possible impact of hazards. This includes the application of engineering techniques toward hazard resistance and resilience in structures or systems.

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