The federal government is spending more on repairing damage from floods and wildfires than on projects that would mitigate the impact of those climate emergencies according to a report released Tuesday by Canada’s auditor general.
According to Karen Hogan’s report Emergency management in First Nations communities, Canada spends more than 3 ½ times the money responding to and recovering from these 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,” she said.
According to Public Safety Canada, for every $1 invested in preparedness and mitigation, $6 can be saved in emergency response and recovery costs.
“Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) 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.”
Hogan wrote that her audit discovered that First Nations had identified a number of infrastructure projects that would “mitigate the impact of emergencies,” but ISC has a backlog of “112 of these infrastructure projects that it has approved but not funded.”
Hogan said many of the issues raised in Tuesday’s audit were also raised in a report issued in 2013.
“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,” the report said.
Hogan said some of these projects could include building “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.”
According to the auditor general, ISC also didn’t 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 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.”
More to come.