A group of First Nations leaders in B.C. is calling on the provincial government to declare an indefinite state of emergency in the aftermath of this week’s devastating atmospheric river.
The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) said Tuesday many First Nations were evacuated or placed under evacuation alert, and are now stuck navigating a “complicated” provincial emergency funding system that “fails to meet their unique needs.”
“As extreme weather events ravage across B.C., First Nations continue to bear the brunt of climate change impacts and have been forced to flee their homes again,” said Grand Chief Stewart Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in a news release.
“The unprecedented and continuing weather events prove that this is no longer a climate crisis; we are in an ongoing climate emergency, and lives and communities are at imminent risk.”
The FNLC includes political executives from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the B.C.-based First Nations Summit. It aims to develop co-ordinated approaches to issues relevant to First Nations people in the province.
As of Tuesday, the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society had listed flood evacuation orders for the Cowichan Tribes, Sumas First Nation, Nooaitch Indian Band, Shackan Indian Band Coldwater Indian Band and Cook’s Ferry Indian Band. Lower Similkameen Indian Band remained under evacuation alert.
Declaring an ongoing state of emergency, said the council, would allow the province to deploy all available resources and “enact extraordinary measures” to combat this weather emergency and others to come.
First Nations’ jurisdiction must be recognized in all matters, said Robert Phillips of the First Nations Summit, including emergency management.
“First Nations require immediate and ongoing supports to address the recurrent devastating impacts of climate change,” he said.
“The government response continues to underestimate the emergency we are facing and it’s time for First Nations to lead the work required to protect our communities for our future generations.”