NWAC strives to support the needs of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people during disaster events in a way that is strength-based and trauma-informed. During emergency and disaster events, all people deserve to feel physically, emotionally and culturally safe.
“Women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes.
Adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as to build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations.”
– Sendai Disaster Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Priority 4. The Framework has the goal of substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.
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.
“While there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer greater harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident, but that it is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk,” reads a UN report titled Inequalities exacerbate climate impacts on poor.2
In 2017, NWAC received funding for a project that would bring a gender-based, culturally appropriate lens to the issue of emergency management. As part of this project, an online survey was conducted with the primary focus on community knowledge of local evacuation plans and experiences of evacuation. Responses from this survey provided recommendations for more inclusive emergency management leadership, greater availability and accessibility of community emergency plans, and the need for gender-based, culturally-safe, trauma-informed supports and services to address the mental health impacts of evacuation.
1. Ensure Indigenous women are recognized for their roles as caretakers and the necessary supports are provided so they can fully participate in the rebuilding and recovery of their communities following an emergency.
2. Expand the definition of emergency to include social emergencies such as the youth suicide crisis or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
3. Ensure that first responders interacting with Indigenous people in any emergency related capacity receive adequate gender-based, culturally-appropriate and trauma-informed training. This training should not replace community-based cultural supports or Indigenous support workers.
- Canada’s Changing Climate Report (2019) https://changingclimate.ca/CCCR2019/chapter/executive-summary/
- UN Sustainable Development Goals. “Report: Inequalities exacerbate climate impacts on poor” (October 2016) https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/10/report-inequalities-exacerbate-climate-impacts-on-poor/