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Minister Blair and Michael McLeod highlight federal investments for wildfire response and recovery in Indigenous and northern communities

The 2023 wildfire season was the worst on record and resulted in the evacuation of more than 95 Indigenous communities. The Northwest Territories were particularly hard hit, and up to 350 Canadian Armed Forces members were deployed to the territory in response to the wildfire situation last year when the territory requested federal assistance. As part of these efforts, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed aircraft and personnel to the Northwest Territories and evacuated 158 vulnerable people to safety.

The latest seasonal weather outlook for 2024 indicates that higher-than-normal temperatures are expected for the spring and summer, boosted by El Niño weather conditions. This sets the stage for the possibility of another active wildfire season and other incidents of extreme weather. The needs of Indigenous communities are acutely felt as they are often located in remote areas, where responding is more challenging.

A fair Canada is one where the government continues making meaningful progress in the journey of reconciliation by working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. Budget 2024 invests in the next steps on the path of reconciliation – including by investing in safe Indigenous communities.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, and Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, met with the Tłı̨chǫ Government in Behchokǫ̀ to discuss the upcoming wildfire season and to note that through Budget 2024, the Government of Canada is stepping up to invest over $175 million to support wildfire response and recovery activities in Indigenous communities.

Budget 2024 proposes to provide:

  • $9 million in 2023-24 to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to support Indigenous governments directly affected by the 2023 wildfires in the Northwest Territories;
  • $145.2 million over five years, starting in 2024-25, for Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to work with First Nations to develop greater climate resiliency and deploy structural mitigation strategies that protect communities, homes, and essential infrastructure from climate disasters, including $10.4 million for Modern Treaty and Self-Governing First Nations; and,
  • $20.9 million over three years, starting in 2024-25, for Indigenous Services Canada to support the First Nations Fire Protection Strategy, 2023 to 2028 by distributing fire alarms and fire extinguishers to homes and community facilities on-reserve, as well as fire-related education programs.

These investments will be made with a commitment to partnership and Indigenous control, so that services truly meet the unique needs of communities.

Minister Blair also highlighted several investments in Our North, Strong and Free which will support the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to rapidly deploy in response to natural disasters such as wildfires, and floods, and support northern operations. These include:

  • $18.4 billion over 20 years to acquire a more modern, mobile, and effective tactical helicopter capability. This will provide the CAF with the speed and airlift capacity to respond to natural disasters and emergencies throughout the country and be available in a secondary role for the CAF’s Search and Rescue responsibilities.
  • $218 million over 20 years for Northern Operational Support Hubs. These hubs, consisting of airstrips, logistics facilities and equipment and stockpiles of spare parts, will enable the military to establish a greater year-round military presence across the Arctic and the North. They will increase military responsiveness and our ability to address security challenges including natural disasters on shorter notice and for longer periods.

Minister Blair noted that these hubs will present significant opportunities to establish multi-purpose infrastructure that also meets the needs of territories, Indigenous peoples, and northern communities. Throughout the design and implementation process, we will engage Indigenous Peoples and northern communities, in line with the principle of “nothing about us, without us” in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

“Indigenous communities have unique needs when it comes to natural disaster response and recovery. Through Budget 2024, we are stepping up to invest over $175 million to support Indigenous wildfire response and recovery efforts. In addition, through Our North, Strong and Free, we are investing in helicopters and infrastructure that will allow our military to respond to natural disasters more quickly in remote regions, when required. These investments will help to keep Indigenous communities safe, and they will present significant opportunities for multi-use infrastructure that can meet the needs of Indigenous peoples and northern communities.”

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

“Here in the Northwest Territories, our communities have vivid memories of last year’s wildfire season – including the evacuation of our capital city, Yellowknife. The investments in Budget 2024 respond to the unique needs of Indigenous communities by investing in their emergency management and preparedness resources. Further, the investments in Our North, Strong and Free will keep people in the Northwest Territories safe by enabling a more persistent and robust military presence in the North.”

Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

  • The federal government recently delivered Budget 2024: Fairness for Every Generation. It is a plan to build a Canada that works better for everyone, where younger generations can get ahead, where their hard work pays off, and where they can buy a home—where everyone has a fair chance at a good middle class life.
  • Through Budget 2024, the Government of Canada is investing in First Nations Emergency Management and Preparedness to equip communities with the tools they need to combat increasingly frequent climate disasters, particularly wildfires. Budget 2024 provides an investment of $175 million, in addition to $260 million provided in the 2023 Fall Economic Statement.
  • Budget 2024 also proposes foundational investments of $8.1 billion over five years, starting in 2024-25, and $73.0 billion over 20 years to ensure Canada is ready to respond to global threats and to protect the well-being of Canadian Armed Forces members. Canada’s defence spending-to-GDP ratio is expected to reach 1.76 per cent by 2029-30. This plan includes targeted investments in military capabilities that will support the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to deploy in response to natural disasters, when required.

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