One year following the signing of the first-ever tripartite Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement (CEMA), the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG), Indigenous Services Canada and the B.C. government are announcing the release of a comprehensive wildfire report by the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, setting out findings and calls to action on emergency management practices.
The report, The Fires Awakened Us (Nagwediẑk’an Gwaneŝ Gangu Chinidẑed Ganexwilagh), was completed as a key milestone under the CEMA, signed in April 2018 between the TNG, Indigenous Services Canada and the B.C. government. This report provides a thorough analysis of the 2017 wildfire season and highlights the jurisdictional, cultural and environmental issues experienced by the Tŝilhqot’in Nation during the 2017 wildfires, as well as 33 calls to action to address these pressing issues.
“The wildfire report and the calls to action we are releasing to the public today feature the all too often misunderstood and missing voice of Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, Tŝilhqot’in National Government. “The Tŝilhqot’in Nation commissioned this report in order to create a better understanding of the uniqueness of our communities and our long-held jurisdiction over emergency management. This report, as well as the Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement as a whole, is progress towards implementing UNDRIP and TRC Calls to Action, while driving change in emergency management for First Nations. Practices, protocols and procedures need to change – relationships are slowly improving, and we need these relations to do the hard work ahead of us. Our calls to action outline how this will be accomplished.”
The 33 calls to action work to inform all levels of government, including recognition of inherent Indigenous jurisdiction in emergency response and recovery, improved equipment and infrastructure, and enhanced processes and protocols.
“A lot of progress has been made in some of the areas of concern, but this report shows there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The report itself is an output of the Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement. It’s a great starting point to come together and do things differently by incorporating the observations and knowledge of the Tŝilhqot’in people.”
Several other benefits have already flowed from the signing of the CEMA, including better working relationships with the TNG communities and the provision of more supports to ensure appropriate protection and response in the case of wildfires within the Tŝilhqot’in territory. These include improved access to training, better engagement with First Nations communities in the area on emergency management concerns, a structural protection unit trailer and enhanced First Nations involvement in wildfire protection and emergency management.
“The Government of Canada stands with First Nations and all British Columbians every step of the way as they rebuild and recover from the devastation caused by wildfires and flooding in the past two years,” said Seamus O’Regan, federal Minister of Indigenous Services. “Thank you to the Tŝilhqot’in National Government for its report on the 2017 fires. It will help inform us as we work together to secure a new approach where First Nations are full partners in emergency management.”
In April 2018, the Tŝilhqot’in National Government entered into a Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the B.C. government that focuses on improving emergency management within the Tŝilhqot’in communities.
ISC has provided funding for the TNG to implement work under the CEMA, including funding toward an emergency management co-ordinator for one year, and a contribution toward a feasibility study regarding the creation of a regional emergency centre.
“The leadership, courage and commitment of the Tŝilhqot’in and First Nations across B.C. to fight fires, protect their communities, prevent future fires through mitigation and help neighbours continues to be recognized and needs to be supported and hard-wired into the system,” said Joyce Murray, president of the Treasury Board and federal Minister of Digital Government. “We are committed to working closely with the Province and all First Nations to create a new approach where First Nations are full partners in emergency management.”
A copy of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government’s report, The Fires Awakened Us, can be found online: http://www.tsilhqotin.ca/Portals/0/PDFs/2019_TheFiresAwakenedUs.pdf