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Input sought to modernize BC’s Emergency Program Act

The Province is making plans to modernize BC’s primary piece of legislation for supporting disaster risk management.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth said they are moving forward with modernizing the Emergency Program Act to ensure that the lessons of the last few years are applied and will help make all of our communities resilient.

“The Emergency Program Act was based significantly on the War Measures Act, and it has not been changed since 1993,” Farnworth said. “If our emergency management structure is going to be ready to respond to the changing realities of climate this province and our populous, the legislation that drives that system must change to support it.”

Farnworth said there is a significant amount of expertise and experience in this province, and that they want to draw on this knowledge to create legislation to reflect what communities require to mitigate risk, and prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

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Feedback on the discussion paper to modernize the Emergency Program Act will be accepted until January 31, 2020.

“We hope to hear diverse views and get insights from all levels of government, indigenous communities, and stakeholders; how will our proposed changes help to strengthen emergency management? have we missed anything? We want to know what you think,” Farnworth said.

“This feedback will us to move forward with a clear legislative direction one that reflects the challenges, needs, and thoughts of all of this province. We know that the frequency and severity of emergency events are increasing and that floods and wildfires in recent years have taught us that we need to evolve to modernize, and the key to that challenge is collaboration. We don’t want to create this legislation in a vacuum. If this legislation is truly going to be there to support more effective emergency management we need to hear from as many individuals, communities, and groups as possible.”

Updates to the legislation will reflect recommendations from the Abbott-Chapman Report, the report by the Tsilhqot’in National Government on the 2017 wildfires and numerous after-action reports. Updated legislation is expected to be introduced in the fall 2020 legislative session.

“The discussion paper refers to British Columbians and First Nations as partners in emergency management, and this legislation modernization is the key opportunity to demonstrate that partnership in code drafting and implementation in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“We welcome this modernization and have high expectations that the needs of First Nations will be reflected in order to ensure the safety of our communities.”

The Emergency Management Act according to Emergency Management BC outlines the roles and responsibilities of local authorities and the provincial government when preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies. It also establishes the conditions under which governments may declare a state of emergency and deploy emergency powers to protect livelihoods and damage to property.

A copy of the discussion paper, along with instructions on how to provide feedback can be found at: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/emergency-program-act-modernization

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