Federal and British Columbia ministers and First Nations hold meeting on disaster recovery and climate resilience
Ottawa, December 14, 2021 – The governments of Canada and British Columbia, along with First Nations, are working together to ensure effective response and recovery following the impacts of severe weather experienced in British Columbia, while also enhancing climate adaptation and response measures.
Yesterday, the Committee of British Columbia and Federal Ministers on Disaster Response and Climate Resilience (the Committee) held an initial meeting to build on efforts already undertaken by the province, First Nations and the federal government. In addition to ministers, the Committee includes Regional Chief Terry Teegee (British Columbia Assembly of First Nations). Robert Phillips (First Nations Summit) attended on behalf of Regional Chief Teegee.
Co-chaired by the Honourable Bill Blair, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Mike Farnworth, Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the meeting focused on joint efforts to respond, recover and rebuild.
The Committee considered a number of priorities:
- Interim housing: Housing needs will remain a focus for the near term and, in some cases, will affect families for an extended period of time. The Committee encouraged continued support for the Canadian Red Cross fund-matching campaign and agreed to ensure the funding is prioritized to provide support to evacuees for short-term housing needs.
- Indigenous emergency management: The Committee acknowledged the need to align building back better with climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as culture, economic reconciliation and the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Committee will continue to work with First Nations representatives to implement the trilateral memorandum of understanding between Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Leadership Council for priority delivery of emergency management services to First Nations communities. The Committee will also work with treaty partners to ensure ongoing collaboration on all aspects of emergency management and climate adaptation and mitigation.
- Infrastructure: Members committed to aligning federal, provincial and First Nations infrastructure strategies, with the intention of increasing infrastructure resiliency in the face of future climate events. As the assessment of impacts continues, the Committee will work to determine the most pressing infrastructure needs, with the initial focus on supporting public safety, followed by economic recovery. At its next meeting, the Committee will receive an update on priorities and strategies to address those priorities. Members discussed the importance of supply chain resilience and concerns about transportation costs and reliability. The province is home to two of Canada’s busiest cargo ports and a critical component of the national and continental supply chain. Ministers emphasized the need to continue collaborative work to address immediate transportation issues, including increasing the supply of fuel in the province, and will work to strengthen the regional supply chain over the long term. They endorsed asking the joint Canada-B.C. Supply Chain Recovery Working Group to continue its work through the recovery period to ensure local needs continue to be met and to explore options for using rail and marine shipping to ease pressure on road infrastructure.
- Agriculture: The Government of British Columbia is working to ensure farmers have the feed supply they need for their animals, and the two governments are developing an agricultural support package to help British Columbian livestock and crop farmers resume production. The Committee agreed to continue working collaboratively to ensure that the impact on the agricultural sector is fully assessed, and that emergency response programming will be delivered in as timely a manner as possible.
Ministers Blair and Farnworth recognized the resilience and strength of the people of British Columbia, who have endured and continue to endure difficult circumstances. They also commended the strong federal-provincial-First Nations partnerships that enabled a rapid response to the developing situation after the Committee received a status update on how events have impacted First Nations communities in the province.
Future work will focus on building back from these extreme weather events in a way that better protects British Columbians, creates cleaner and healthier communities, and supports Canada’s efforts to reach our climate goals and net-zero emissions targets. The next meeting of the Committee will take place in early 2022.
“It has been remarkable to witness the incredible strength of British Columbians during these very difficult times. First responders, search and rescue volunteers, and community members have helped with everything from clean-up and recovery to feeding, clothing and caring for those impacted. This committee will build on that work and take action on several fronts, including emergency housing and support for farmers, to make sure those impacted communities recover from this disaster as quickly as possible.”
—The Honourable Bill Blair, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness
“Our Government will continue to work collaboratively with our provincial partners to ensure fast, coordinated action in support of those affected by severe weather in British Columbia. We will continue to be there for British Columbians and encourage all Canadians to support the Canadian Red Cross fund-matching campaign.”
—The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities
“Our province has been through a lot this year, from severe wildfires to the deadly heat dome, and now this devastating flooding. Our priority right now is helping British Columbians to build back their communities and their livelihoods in a better and more resilient way, and we are grateful to the federal government for their support, including the life-saving work of the Canadian Armed Forces and the promised supports to our hard-hit farmers and communities. I look forward to our continued collaboration in facing this challenge head-on.”
—The Honourable Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General
“First Nations in B.C. have been the most affected by climate change and the emergencies of the past year. We commend the work of first responders – they are tired from fires, COVID-19, heat domes, residential school findings and now flooding. We are all in this together and must jointly develop climate emergency management, mitigation, response and recovery measures that include First Nations values and knowledge. While we look forward to working with our federal and provincial partners on this important work, the priority right now must be to ensure all First Nations communities and citizens impacted by the floods and wildfires in B.C. are provided with the necessary financial resources for flood recovery.”
—Robert Phillips, First Nations Summit
Emergency management responsibility in Canada is shared by federal, provincial and territorial governments and their partners, including First Nations and treaty nations.
The Committee of British Columbia and Federal Ministers on Disaster Response and Climate Resilience, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan, builds on the Supply Chain Recovery Working Group. The working group was established to ensure critical supplies and goods can begin to flow again, and that the supply chain is rebuilt as quickly and as resiliently as possible.
Canadians wishing to make a financial donation to the Canadian Red Cross to help those impacted by the floods in British Columbia can do so online at redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111, or by texting BCFLOODS to 30333.
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Emergency Management BC
Public Safety Canada
Privy Council Office
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