The B.C. government has addressed almost 92% of the recommendations in the Abbott-Chapman report that looked into the devastating 2017 wildfire and flood seasons in British Columbia.
“We were all aware of the risk of catastrophic wildfires leading up to 2017, but at that time, not enough work was done to prepare people and communities,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We have acted on 99 of the 108 recommendations in this report because we have made it a priority to keep British Columbians safe.”
George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman wrote the report, Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in B.C., after extensive consultations with First Nations, local governments, residents, industry and other stakeholders affected by wildfires and flooding that year.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, the Province released the second progress update on its Government’s Action Plan: Responding to wildfire and flood risks, which was released on Oct. 31, 2018. The update details the work that’s been done on each of the report’s 108 recommendations over the past year:
- Responses to 99 of the recommendations (or about 92% of the total) are now considered to be “complete” (49 recommendations) or “underway” (19), or “substantial improvement” has been achieved (31).
- Of the remaining nine recommendations, four require further analysis and discussion, while alternative approaches are being used to address the other five recommendations.
The B.C. government’s emergency management efforts have also considered other recent reports, such as the auditor general report, Managing Climate Change Risks, and the federal House of Commons June 2018 report, From the Ashes: Reimagining Fire Safety and Emergency Management in Indigenous Communities.
“We continue to make solid progress on the report’s recommendations, such as incorporating the United Nations’ Sendai Framework and collaborating with First Nations on emergency management improvements,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We’re going to continue to move forward with these changes and entrench them in our modernization of the Emergency Program Act to ensure this critical piece of legislation is responsive to the needs of all British Columbians.”
The Abbott-Chapman report made it clear that governments needed to improve how to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from wildfires and floods.
“Chief Maureen Chapman and I spent months travelling around the province last year in the wake of the 2017 wildfire and freshet seasons. We listened very closely to the concerns of many individuals and communities who were directly affected by those catastrophic events,” Abbott said. “It’s encouraging to see the B.C. government’s prompt and thorough response to our report, and heartening to see how much work has been done to address our report’s recommendations.”
The Oct. 31 progress update also describes how the Province is using the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to structure improvements to its emergency management efforts. The Sendai Framework advocates for action within and across sectors at all levels of government, in four priority areas:
- understanding disaster risk
- strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk
- investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
- enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “build back better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction
“It was crucial for us to hear first-hand how British Columbians were impacted by the 2017 wildfires and floods,” Chief Chapman said. “The changes made as a result of our report have enhanced the Province’s response capabilities, strengthened relationships between communities and provided First Nations a more direct role in how such emergencies will be dealt with in future.”
- In 2017, 1.2 million hectares burned, displacing more than 65,000 residents during the longest state of emergency in B.C.'s history. The total cost of wildfire and flood response in 2017 was close to $650 million.
- On Dec. 4, 2017, the B.C. government launched an independent review of the response to the 2017 wildfire and flooding seasons.
- The review was led by George Abbott and by Maureen Chapman, Hereditary Chief of Skawahlook First Nation. Their report, Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in B.C., was released in May 2018. The Abbott-Chapman report includes 108 recommendations related to disaster management.
The Abbott-Chapman report, the government’s Action Plan and both progress updates are available online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/emergency-management-bc
For information on wildfire prevention, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/FireSmart
Learn how to prepare for an emergency: www.gov.bc.ca/PreparedBC