ARCHIVED - Backgrounder - How AANDC Supports First Nation Communities During Emergencies

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The main responsibility for emergency management rests with provincial and territorial governments. However, under the Emergency Management Act (EMA), each federal minister is responsible for identifying risks that are within or related to their area of responsibility and developing appropriate emergency management plans in respect of those risks. In AANDC's case, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has accepted responsibility for supporting on-reserve First Nation communities in the four pillars of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The AANDC National Emergency Management Plan applies to emergencies that have the potential to threaten the health and safety of First Nation communities and individuals and that exceed the capacity of the local community to address on their own. The plan is designed to present the necessary framework for providing assistance and support to the regions, provinces and territories as applicable. This plan does not replace any event specific or regional plans.

AANDC enters into collaborative agreements with provincial governments to ensure that First Nation communities have access to comparable emergency assistance services available to other residents in their respective province. Through these agreements, AANDC provides funding to cover eligible costs related to emergency assistance in First Nation communities while the provincial or territorial government provides the service. In the Territories, AANDC collaborates with territorial emergency management organizations and other government departments to manage emergencies that have the potential to affect communities, lands, waters and the environment generally.

The most common emergencies affecting First Nation communities are floods, fires, search and rescue, or failure of community infrastructure (i.e. critical roads, bridges, etc.) due to a natural disaster or accident.

Public health issues (e.g. H1N1) are supported by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Roles and Responsibilities


  • AANDC's role is to provide advice and support, within its mandate and authorities, as requested by the province or territory, while the provincial or territorial emergency measures organization provides front-line emergency response service.
  • AANDC provides funding to cover costs related to emergency assistance in First Nation communities. There are a variety of funding models for this support, depending on the province or territory. In Ontario, eligible costs are reimbursed after the emergency through Emergency Management Ontario (EMO). AANDC also reimburses non-government organizations for any assistance they provide on behalf of the department or provincial agency.
  • AANDC maintains an overall National Emergency Management Plan for First Nations communities. The latest was issued in 2011.
  • AANDC assists First Nations with the development, testing and updating of emergency management plans in First Nation communities.
  • During an emergency, AANDC works with the First Nation Chief and Council, and the provincial or territorial emergency measures organization, such as Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) to ensure that the urgent needs of the community are met.
  • In the event of property or critical infrastructure damage in a community, AANDC works with the Chief and Council to assess the situation, determine the most effective way to repair damage and ensure delivery of programs and services to the community.

Province of Ontario

  • Under the 1992 Service Agreement between AANDC and the Province of Ontario, Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) is responsible for assisting First Nations with emergency preparedness activities and for emergency response services, as requested.
  • Emergency response may include:
    • providing liaison and advice,
    • arranging, co-ordinating or directing:
      • personnel,
      • services,
      • equipment, and
      • materials.

First Nations

  • First Nations are responsible for developing and implementing emergency plans for their communities.
  • When an emergency occurs or is imminent within a First Nation community, it is the responsibility of the Chief and Council to use all available resources to respond to the situation. If the emergency goes beyond the First Nation's capacity to respond, the Chief and Council are responsible for notifying AANDC and the provincial or territorial emergency measures organization, and for declaring an emergency.
  • Not all emergencies require an evacuation from the affected community. AANDC supports the evacuation of a First Nations community when there is an imminent threat to the community, and all parties (Chief and Council, provincial/territorial emergency measures organization and AANDC) agree that an evacuation is warranted. Evacuations in Ontario are coordinated through Emergency Management Ontario.

Non-government Organizations

  • Non-Government Organizations (e.g. Red Cross), other government departments or agencies, and Aboriginal organizations may be asked to support the management of an emergency. Where AANDC specifically seeks the support of such organizations, they will be reimbursed for any costs incurred.

Additional Information

Phone: (toll-free) 1-800-567-9604
Fax: 1-866-817-3977
TTY: (toll-free) 1-866-553-0554

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