The ways Indigenous communities are impacted by emergency events and disasters continue to reflect the legacy of colonialism. While Canada may be in a strong economic position to react or respond to environmental, ecological, social or economic changes, many Indigenous communities do not have the same level of capacity to respond to these situations on their own. As a result, these communities, individuals and ecosystems bear the repercussions of emergency events and disasters.
Issues of emergency management and disaster resiliency become inseparable from issues of social and economic equality. This is especially true for Indigenous communities. Various issues can arise from the environmental risks associated with the geographical location of reserves to the emergency needs of Indigenous people living in urban centres. Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face unique risks and challenges that are often overlooked in traditional emergency management, planning, prevention and response measures.
These issues are further exacerbated by the increasingly detrimental effects of climate change.
Canada’s Changing Climate Report 2019 – the first of its kind – reports that Canada has been and continues to warm at about double the global rate. In the north, this rate is more than double the global one.1 Annual and winter precipitation is projected to increase, while summer precipitation will likely decrease. This means less snow in the winter and dryer conditions in the summer. Permafrost temperatures have also risen. This is of particular impact for Inuit. “The seasonal availability of freshwater is changing, with an increased risk of water supply shortages in summer,” meaning Indigenous communities who already struggle to access clean water may have it even worse in the future.