Minister Sajjan announces disaster recovery funding to Northwest Territories for 2023 wildfires

News release

December 20, 2023 - Ottawa, Ontario

The Northwest Territories (NWT) experienced their worst wildfire season on record in 2023. It was an unprecedented season, with nearly 70 per cent of the population having been evacuated over the course of the summer from across the territories, many residents having experienced loss of property, and many communities having suffered damage to their critical infrastructure.  

Today, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, announced an advance payment of $84,347,404 to the territory through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program, to help assist with response and recovery costs associated with the 2023 wildfires.

When a large scale disaster happens, the Government of Canada provides financial assistance through the DFAA program to provinces and territories. Through this support, the government of Canada covers eligible disaster response and recovery expenses that have been submitted by the province or territory and that exceed what they could reasonably be expected to bear on their own.

The Government of Canada will continue to work closely with the Government of the Northwest Territories to respond to and recover better from disastrous events brought on by climate change. 


“I have witnessed firsthand the damage and devastation that the 2023 wildfires have brought to communities and the residents of the NWT. We are committed to supporting those impacted by disasters, which are exacerbated by climate change, and keeping them safe. This advance payment will further help support the NWT as they continue to recover and rebuild better in the aftermath of the unprecedented wildfire season.”

- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada

“Our government is grateful to the Government of Canada for accelerating an advance payment through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program as we continue to recover from a historic wildfire season. Residents, communities and businesses were significantly impacted by 2023 wildfires and the damage that they inflicted. In times of emergency response and recovery, collaboration across governments is critically important. The Government of the Northwest Territories is appreciative of the support it has received from partners like the Government of Canada as we continue to recover from a wildfire season that brought unprecedented devastation.”

- The Honourable Vince McKay, Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs for the Northwest Territories

“Northerners are resilient, and our government will be there every step of the way to help communities in the Northwest Territories recover from their worst-ever wildfire season. This advance payment will help residents, small businesses and communities as they rebuild their lives.”

- The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs

“Throughout the 2023 wildfire season, the Government of Canada was there to support the hard work done to keep our communities safe. With this DFAA program advance payment, our government is continuing to demonstrate our commitment to addressing the impacts of this past summer on the Northwest Territories.”

- Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories

Quick facts

  • Between May 4, and October 15, 2023, 304 wildfires burned over 4.1 million hectares across the NWT. Many of these wildfires threatened communities across the Northwest Territories. These fires resulted in many community evacuations, displacing more than two thirds of NWT residents from their homes in the following areas:

    • Salt River First Nation
    • Fort Smith
    • Sambaa K’e
    • Wekweètı̀
    • Jean Marie River,
    • Hay River (twice)
    • Enterprise
    • Kátł’odeeche First Nation (twice)
    • Ingraham Trail (North Prosperous Lake, North Prelude Lake, River Lake)
    • Dettah
    • N’dilo,
    • Behchokǫ̀
    • Yellowknife
    • Highway 5 kms 234-329
    • Kakisa.  
  • On June 5, 2023, the Government of Canada announced that it will join the Government of the Northwest Territories in matching donations to the United Way of the Northwest Territories, to support disaster relief and recovery efforts in a number of communities. Thanks to the generosity of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, over $362,000 was raised from May 15 to June 14, 2023, which is being matched by the federal government. 

  • In Canada, emergencies are managed first at the municipal level and if assistance is needed, the municipality requests it from the province or territory. If the emergency escalates further, provinces and territories can get help from the federal government. 

  • The DFAA provides assistance when response and recovery costs exceed what individual provinces or territories could be expected to bear on their own. Federal government payments are calculated on a per capita basis and are cost-shared with the province or territory. The amount cost-shared is determined by an established formula of up to 90 per cent of the costs of eligible expenses.

  • Eligible expenses under the DFAA include, but are not limited to, evacuation operations, restoring public works and infrastructure to their pre-disaster condition, as well as restoration or replacement of individuals’ uninsurable principal dwellings, restoration of small businesses, and farmsteads and mitigation measures to reduce the future vulnerability of repaired or replaced infrastructure.

  • Under the DFAA, provinces and territories have six months following the end of a disaster event to request financial assistance from the federal government. Once an event has been designated under the DFAA, provinces and territories have up to five years to submit their final claim.

  • Following the approval of an Order-in-Council (OiC) which is required to make payments, in the first 12 months following the end of an event, a province or territory may request in writing advance DFAA payments to address early requirements. These requests must contain supporting documentation, including actual interim expenditures and projected estimates, for review by the federal auditor. Based on this audit review, Public Safety Canada determines the total amount of the advance payments which should not exceed half of the projected federal cost-share.

  • Since the inception of the program in 1970, the DFAA has been a reliable source of support for provinces and territories. As of March 2023, the Government of Canada has provided $7.9 billion in post disaster assistance to help provinces and territories with the costs of response and returning infrastructure and property to pre-disaster condition. 

  • Budget 2023 proposes $48.1 million over five years, starting in 2023-2024, to identify high-risk flood areas and implement a modernized DFAA program which would incentivize mitigation efforts. This work is being informed by the findings and recommendations of an independent advisory panel and the input of provinces and territories. A modernized program is expected in April 2025.

Associated links


Joanna Kanga
Press Secretary
Office of the President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

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