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Indigenous Services Canada did not provide First Nations communities with support to manage emergencies

Press Release

Ottawa, 15 November 2022—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the House of Commons found that Indigenous Services Canada did not provide First Nations communities with the support they need to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies such as floods and wildfires, which are increasing in both frequency and intensity. 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.

The audit found that First Nations communities had identified many infrastructure projects that would mitigate the impact of emergencies. The department has a backlog of 112 of these infrastructure projects that it has approved but not funded. Meanwhile, it is spending 3.5 times more money on responding to and recovering from emergencies than on providing communities with the support that would help them prevent these emergencies or enhance their abilities to respond to them. Indigenous Services Canada’s actions were consistently more reactive than preventative. According to Public Safety Canada, for every $1 invested in preparedness and mitigation, $6 can be saved in emergency response and recovery costs.

Many of the issues noted in this audit were first raised in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s 2013 audit of emergency management on reserves. For example, Indigenous Services Canada still had not identified which First Nations communities most need support to increase their capacity to prepare for emergencies. If the department identified these communities, it could target investments accordingly—for example, to build culverts and dikes to prevent or reduce the impact of seasonal floods. This would help to minimize costs that the department is currently incurring to help First Nations communities respond to and recover from emergencies.

The audit also found that Indigenous Services Canada did not know whether First Nations communities received services that were culturally appropriate and comparable to those provided to similar non‑Indigenous communities.

“Over the last 4 fiscal years, Indigenous Services Canada has spent about $828 million on emergency management,” said Ms. 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.”

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The 2022 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, Report 8—Emergency Management in First Nations Communities—Indigenous Services Canada is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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