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Federal Auditor Critical of Government Response

By Randy Thoms Nov 16, 2022 | 8:28 AM

A home at Couchiching First Nation is protected by sandbags from rising Rainy Lake in 2015. Supplied photo

The federal Auditor General says First Nation communities aren’t getting the support they need to prepare for and respond to climate emergencies such as floods and wildfires.

A report from Karen Hogan found that Indigenous Services Canada is spending 3.5 times more money on responding to emergencies than on preventative measures.

“Over the last four fiscal years, Indigenous Services Canada has spent about $828 million on emergency management,” says Hogan. “Funding and building approved infrastructure projects, such as culverts and dikes to prevent seasonal floods, would help minimize the impact on people and the cost of responding to and recovering from emergencies.”

Minister Patty Hajdu says it is something they are working on.

“And there will be a transition period where you’re spending a lot on responding to emergencies and a lot on getting communities ready to be more prepared and have more adaptation strategies,” says Hadju.

The audit also found many First Nations communities identified infrastructure projects that would mitigate the impact of emergencies.
Indigenous Services Canada gave approval to 112 projects, but none were funded.

“We need to get ahead of that curve in order to be able to support communities to have better planning and better resources to manage the climate events that undoubtedly are going to be more frequent in nature,” acknowledges Hadju.

The federal Auditor says over the last 13 years, more than 1,300 emergencies have occurred in First Nations communities, causing more than 130,000 people to be evacuated and displaced.

Hogan notes many of the issues today were first raised in a 2013 review of emergency management on reserves.



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