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First Nations Emergency Planning in Ontario: The Role of OFNTSC and Recommendations for Improvement

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The Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC) provides emergency planning support and training to develop capacity within First Nations to prepare for emergency events. OFNTSC’s Emergency Planning unit has been in place since 2009, and delivers: 1. training workshops (regional and in-community) to educate participants on emergency management through phases; 2. advisory services to update/develop of emergency master plans; and 3. advisory services to carry out emergency planning exercises.

Emergency management on-reserve has received significant attention in recent years due to the challenges faced by First Nations with flooding, wildfires, and a host of other naturally occurring and human-caused threats. As climate change continues to affect many First Nations in Ontario, it is expected that extreme weather events are likely to become the new normal. While the federal government plays an important role in the delivery of emergency management services to First Nations on-reserve, several gaps exist in both the policy and emergency management delivery framework, which adversely affects First Nations and can have a costly toll on community infrastructure. First Nations are the fastest growing demographic in Canada so it is imperative that comprehensive emergency plans are put in place, sufficiently resourced, implemented, and updated.

The OFNTSC plays a critical role in emergency planning in Ontario, and as First Nations continue to face emergencies, it is essential that that the pillars of emergency management (Preparedness, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation) be culturally sensitive and delivered by and for Indigenous communities and organizations consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The following report will explore emergency planning within the context of Ontario First Nations through an overview and analysis of federal emergency management policies as they relate to on-reserve First Nations. It will then explore challenges faced by First Nations associated with emergency planning and provide a list of best practices in emergency planning, in addition to an overview of emergency management regimes in other Canadian jurisdictions. Lastly, the report will highlight recommendations to both improve the service the OFNTSC offers, and to aid First Nations in the preparation of emergencies.

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