Kootenay Boundary Regional District chair Roly Russell, Tsartlip Chief Don Tom and former B.C. cabinet minister George Abbott are introduced at the B.C. legislature as members of an emergency management review panel, Oct. 28, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Kootenay Boundary Regional District chair Roly Russell, Tsartlip Chief Don Tom and former B.C. cabinet minister George Abbott are introduced at the B.C. legislature as members of an emergency management review panel, Oct. 28, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. to overhaul emergency procedures for wildfires, floods

Province to begin consultation tour and work with municipal and Indigenous communities

Lessons from a rockslide in the Fraser River, flooding in Grand Forks and wildfire evacuations across the B.C. Interior are informing an overhaul of B.C. emergency management procedures.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced a discussion paper and consultation Monday that will carry on until the end of January, with changes to the law governing evacuation orders and other emergency measures that affect communities and residents.

“Updating this legislation is long overdue,” Farnworth said Monday. “The Emergency Program Act was based on the War Measures Act, and it hasn’t been updated since 1993.”

Farnworth said B.C. approach will incorporate the “Sendai Framework,” a disaster response system named after the capital city of Myagi Prefecture in Japan. That region was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the framework focuses mobilizing society to reduce disaster risk.

The Sendai Framework includes methods to “build back better,” to reduce future risks such as was done with flooding in High River, Alta. in 2013, Farnworth said.

RELATED: Grand Forks tackling debris left from flooding

RELATED: Fraser River landslide a race to save salmon

RELATED: Emergency study finds communication a big issue

Farnworth introduced the three-member panel that will to gather input and recommend changes. It includes former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott, whose report on the lessons of the 2017 wildfire season identified the lack of coordination between the province and small, isolated communities. He also was tasked with speeding up applications to B.C.’s disaster recovery programs.

“If B.C. is going to better support communities and first nations from mitigation right through to recovery, there needs to be strong and inclusive legislation backing it, that’s what these changes have an opportunity to do,” Abbott said.

Another panel member is Roly Russell, chair of the Kootenay Boundary, who grappled with devastating flooding in Grand Forks the following year. He said the emergency response worked well, but “we had no playbook” for a recovery that is years in the making.

“It felt like a blank canvas when it came to designing a recovery plan and designing a recovery team,” Russell said. “A few references in provincial guidance material and part of a page in our regional plan seemed to be about the extent of recovery planning for an event of this magnitude.”

One of the issues was using workforce housing trailers to shelter people who were forced from their homes for long periods due to flooding. The trailers “wouldn’t meet the wellness needs of our community, would be expensive and create future problems,” Russell said.

The other panelist is Tsartlip Chief Don Tom, who said he will work to see Indigenous communities integrated more fully into the provincial response. That was a key finding of Abbott and Chapman’s 2017 report, which made more than 100 recommendations to government.

“The Big Bar landslide this year was a clear example of the type of emergencies we are likely to see more of in the future, and it caused significant losses to salmon runs on the Fraser River,” Tom said. “For first nations reliant on the salmon, it was an extremely challenging season, and we hope it’s an event that can be learned from moving forward.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Just Posted

President of the Tahltan Central Government, Chad Norman Day, surveys Tahltan territory by helicopter in this July 2019 handout photo. The Tahltan Nation and the British Columbia government have struck what officials say is a historic agreement for shared decision-making for the nation’s territory in northwestern B.C., a hot spot for mineral exploration. Day says the deal shows they are “getting closer and closer to a true nation-to-nation relationship.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Tahltan Central Government
Tahltan Nation, B.C. government sign agreement for shared decision-making

Deal commits the province and the northwest B.C. nation to developing a land-use plan

Tahltan First Nation wildlife guardian, Jarett Quock, above and below right, was awarded the Outstanding Individual Leadership Award by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative on June 3. (Photos courtesy Adam Amir)
Tahltan wildlife guardian receives outstanding leadership award

Jarett Quock’s contributions were recognised by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

The farmhouse in Glentanna where the founding meeting of the Bulkley Valley Credit Union took place on April 14, 1941. (BV Museum archive)
Bulkley Valley Credit Union announces finalists for legacy project donation

Community can vote for one of the three finalists from each area

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read