The B.C. government is calling upon emergency management practitioners, community and First Nations leaders, businesses, non-profit organizations and other interested British Columbians to provide their input and expertise as the Province prepares to modernize its emergency management legislation.
“There’s a lot of emergency management expertise and experience in this province that can help us ensure that modernized legislation is responsive to B.C.’s needs in the future,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Whether it’s a wildfire or a flood, the legislative framework provides the backbone of what we do. We want to draw upon the knowledge that exists so our legislation reflects what communities need to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.”
To gather input on proposed legislative changes, the Province is releasing a discussion paper for comment, outlining the proposed direction for modernized emergency management legislation. Individuals or organizations can provide their feedback until Jan. 31, 2020, on proposed legislative changes that would:
- encompass all stages of emergency management — mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery;
- reflect a shift from disaster response to managing and reducing disaster risk;
- include an all-of-society approach where emergency management is a shared responsibility of individuals, governments, communities and private and non-profit sectors;
- further reconciliation efforts by recognizing First Nations as partners in emergency management;
- put safety first, with the protection of life, health and safety being paramount;
- make sure decisions made under the act and its regulations are transparent;
- include a funding mechanism that is responsive, flexible and disciplined; and
- ensure the act is inclusive and considers the needs of vulnerable citizens.
“When something like a flood devastates your community like it did in Grand Forks and the Boundary, you quickly learn what’s missing in the toolkit of disaster recovery,” said Roly Russell, chair of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. “We learned a great deal and our team is pleased to be able to use that experience to help inform legislative reform that will make our province’s communities more resilient to future disasters and enable our communities to genuinely build back better.”
Since the Emergency Program Act was introduced in 1993, changes in the size and scope of emergencies, along with how they are managed, have occurred and need to be reflected in legislation. These include climate change concerns and the adoption of the United Nations’ Sendai Framework, which is an internationally acknowledged approach to emergency management disaster risk reduction.
“Over the past few years, I’ve visited communities all over the province and met with people dealing with devastating events or preparing for that possibility,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “It’s important that we continue to work together to learn from prior emergency events and incorporate those lessons to make all British Columbians more resilient in the face of disaster.”
Following the unprecedented flood and wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018, updates to the legislation will reflect recommendations from the Abbott-Chapman Report, the report by the Tsilhqot’in National Government on the 2017 wildfires and numerous after-action reports. Updated legislation is expected to be introduced in the fall 2020 legislative session.
“When Chief Maureen Chapman and I reviewed the unprecedented wildfire season of 2017, we found that there’s work to do to improve how the Province manages emergencies in communities,” said George Abbott, co-author of the Abbott-Chapman Report. “If B.C. is going to better support communities and First Nations from mitigation right through to recovery, there needs to be strong and inclusive legislation backing it, and that’s what these changes have the opportunity to do. I urge community leaders, Indigenous communities and emergency experts to take the opportunity to provide their input.”
Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said, “First Nations have been severely affected by floods, wildfires and other emergency events, and it’s absolutely critical that Indigenous rights and community-based needs are reflected in the legislation that guides the response and recovery from those events. We have high expectations that the needs of First Nations will be properly reflected in the emergency management legislation, to ensure the safety of our communities.”
The Emergency Program Act is B.C.’s primary piece of legislation for supporting disaster risk management. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of local authorities and the provincial government when preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies. The act establishes the conditions under which governments may declare a state of emergency and deploy emergency powers to protect livelihoods and damage to property.
A copy of the discussion paper, along with instructions on how to provide feedback can be found at: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/emergency-program-act-modernization
Feedback on the discussion paper can be provided at: EmergencyProgramAct@gov.bc.ca