Strengthening support and capacity for the Tŝilhqot’in National Government and its communities to be true partners and leaders in emergency management is the foundation of the renewed five-year tripartite Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement (CEMA).
The agreement enables the Tŝilhqot’in National Government and the governments of British Columbia and Canada to build on successes from the 2018 agreement while advancing reconciliation through the development of a respect-based, government-to-government framework for emergency and wildfire management.
The CEMA will create a structure for collaboration to ensure that Nations are at the table and informing decisions that affect them, their families and their territories while prioritizing the importance of cultural safety and Indigenous knowledge in wildfire and emergency management.
The agreement identifies and supports the implementation of policies and protocols to allow seamless and effective emergency management across all orders of government, including Indigenous, federal, provincial, regional and municipal governments. It also commits the parties to jointly explore and develop a proposal for an Indigenous-led regional emergency centre, a training facility and evacuation centres.
The three governments are committing to co-develop and collaboratively implement strategies to enhance the role and capacity of Tŝilhqot’in peoples in emergency management, including a review of infrastructure, operational requirements and other capacity needs.
With the signing of this agreement, the governments of British Columbia and Canada bring forward a renewed determination to deliver emergency services with Indigenous Peoples in a way that is culturally safe, efficient and effective.
The agreement reflects the common goal of the three governments to build trust and relationships in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Over the past five years, the parties have made progress related to establishing government-to-government agreements and protocols that provide a progressive framework for:
- emergency response;
- enhancing community capacity funding;
- improving financial reimbursement processes; and
- continuing to seek solutions to medium- and long-range infrastructure investments, such as fire halls.
From February 2017 to February 2022, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) contributed $1.3 million to implement the agreement. With the signing of the new agreement, Canada has committed to ensuring this funding continues with $250,000 per year over five years. Additionally, ISC will provide $225,000 through its First Nation Infrastructure Fund to support the Tŝilhqot’in National Government and Tŝilhqot’in communities in emergency management community planning.
Since 2019, the Province, through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund, has granted the Tŝilhqot’in National Government more than $836,000 to advance emergency support services, emergency operations centres and firefighting priorities. This year, Emergency Management BC provided an additional $280,000 to further priorities set under the Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement.
The work done with the Tŝilhqot’in National Government and Tŝilhqot’in communities is intended to inform work with other Indigenous governments and communities, as well as the broader commitment to improve overall emergency management in B.C. and throughout the country.
- The Tŝilhqot’in territory covers 6.65 million hectares (approximately 16 million acres) of land between the Fraser River and the Coast Mountains in west-central B.C.
- The Tŝilhqot’in National Government consists of the Tŝilhqot’in communities of Tl'etinqox (Anaham), ?Esdilagh (Alexandria), Yunesit'in (Stone), Tsi Deldel (Alexis Creek/Redstone), Tl'esqox (Toosey) and Xeni Gwet'in (Nemiah).
- The first-ever Collaborative Emergency Management Agreement was created with the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, the Province and the federal government in 2018 following the catastrophic 2017 fire season in the B.C. Interior.
- Canada and British Columbia are working with First Nation partners to develop a provincewide tripartite approach to emergency management that recognizes First Nations as full partners.
- Emergency Management BC is co-developing modernized emergency management legislation with Indigenous partners to ensure a new act supports more effective emergency management and aligns with the principles of UNDRIP.
Collective Emergency Management Agreement: https://www.tsilhqotin.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/2022_Collaborative_Emergency_Management_Agreement.pdf
Tŝilhqot’in National Government: https://www.tsilhqotin.ca/
For information about BC Wildfire Service’s Cultural and Prescribed Fire Program, visit: https://prescribedfire.ca/
A backgrounder follows.