COVID-19 Virus - Man wearing gloves

COVID-19 & Emergency Support

Assisting First Nation communities to effectively respond to emergencies by developing safety measures, emergency plans, protocols and laws.

Emergency Management Program

If your First Nation wishes to adopt a comprehensive overall approach to dealing with emergencies, an Emergency Management Program can be established which typically consists of an Emergency Plan, and Emergency Management Law, training programs and exercises for employees.

The training program and exercises usually include regular practice sessions involving simulated emergencies to test whether the emergency response systems work, to test the capacity of all personnel who need to be engaged during a real emergency (e.g. firefighters, emergency access vehicles, notifications to neighbouring governments and hospitals etc.….).

The overall Emergency Management Program can also include consideration not just of immediate emergency response but also recovery activities, public education and awareness, and a process to assess risks and threats.

Emergency Plans

An Emergency Plan is a plan aimed at:

  1. reducing the risk of occurrence of emergencies,
  2. immediate response to actual emergencies,
  3. recovery from actual emergencies.

The Plan will hopefully help the entire community, but particularly first responders and experts, be ready for emergencies by developing systems and procedures in advance of any actual emergency. Because many emergencies transcend the borders of First Nation Lands, Emergency Plans will often include consideration of partnerships with other governments, and expert resources such as nearby hospitals.

Emergency Plans should fit together with your Emergency Management Laws and any Temporary Urgent Laws which provide authorization for a Declaration of Emergency. The Emergency Plan will typically further describe notifications, key resources and personnel including up to date contact information, and clarification of who has the authority to issue orders or take other steps to protect your community. Usually, the first step in developing an Emergency Plan is a risk assessment specific to your community. Some examples of subjects for consideration in an Emergency Plan could include earthquakes, floods, extreme weather conditions, hurricanes, landslides, tornadoes, wildfires, and pandemics.  The Emergency Plan identify Emergency Management Groups (the different teams who would deal with different types of emergencies), contact information for all, resources available through neighbouring communities, private agencies and companies, provincial agencies, and federal agencies.  The Emergency Plan should be reviewed yearly along with regularly scheduled training scenarios.

Emergency Management Law

Under the Framework Agreement, it is possible to develop a long term law designed to deal with many of the same subjects dealt with in an Emergency Plan…

A law:

  1. imposing measures to avoid the risk of occurrence of emergencies
  2. immediate response to actual emergencies, and
  3. recovery from actual emergencies.

The Law can make enforceable key provisions of an Emergency Plan for example by setting out the authority of individuals to deal with emergencies, the consequences for failure to comply with orders made by appointed authorities, and the powers that individuals will have to interfere with normal use of lands, residences, and businesses to deal with the emergency. The Emergency Management Law can deal with matters such as curfews and orders to vacate properties, something that Plans can only suggest but not impose except under authority of a law.

Temporary Urgent Laws

Many land codes include a power to enact temporary laws if Council considers that the law is urgently required. If this authority is not found in your land code, then it is necessary to go through the regular process for enacting laws set out in your land code which unfortunately can mean lengthy delays if an emergency has already occurred.

If Council has the power to enact a temporary law on an urgent basis, it is recommended that the law state clearly why the matter is urgent…..what emergency has occurred that justifies the extraordinary step of bypassing the normal process for enacting laws.

These laws are temporary both because an emergency is usually temporary by nature but also because land codes typically specify that urgent laws only last for a maximum of 120 days. Having said that, if an emergency continues, it is possible to renew or enact a new Temporary Urgent Law when another expires. Temporary Urgent Laws will usually be focused on a specific emergency that has occurred (such as the Covid 19 pandemic of 2020) and deal with many of the matters found in broader Emergency Management Laws (e.g. authority of specified individuals to deal with the emergency, consequences of not obeying orders issued by that individual etc…)

Declaration of Emergency

A Declaration of Emergency is proclaimed or declared in accordance with your First Nation Emergency Management Plan and laws. An Emergency Management Law and Emergency Plan will describe the circumstances under which a Declaration of Emergency can be made by Council. By way of example, a law could specify that a Declaration of Emergency can be made where a situation or an impending situation constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or unintentional. The Declaration of Emergency provides Council, administration, and sometimes Emergency Control Groups extraordinary authorities to mitigate risks and take control of a situation.

It may be advisable to consult with provincial emergency authorities to check whether your proposed form of Declaration of Emergency could qualify to secure assistance where necessary from provincial emergency services, and possibly financial assistance for dealing with the emergency

Authorities under Emergencies

An Emergency Management Law or a Temporary Urgent Law will typically describe the authority of certain individuals to deal with an emergency. For example, these laws might say that an individual has the authority to enter into lands and buildings and build temporary structures to prevent further damage from floods or other natural disasters. When an actual emergency arises, Council can decide who to appoint and which of the menu of possible authorities under the First Nation’s laws they will have. All of this depends on the particular emergency that arises because the right persons to appoint and powers needed will be different for example in the case of a medical emergency as opposed to a natural disaster leading to flooding.

If Council issues a formal Declaration of Emergency, Council can, within the Declaration (or a separate resolution if authorized by the First Nation’s laws), name the individuals who are appointed to deal with the emergency, state which authorities or powers they have from the list of powers in the First Nation’s laws, and specify for how many days or months they are appointed to deal with the emergency. Sometimes, a lead person is named as an Emergency Manager under the law and an Emergency Plan.

Some Emergency Management Laws can give the force of law to parts or all of an Emergency Plan and for example specify what orders can be made by an Emergency Manager under an Emergency Plan (e.g. orders restricting access to the community, curfews, evacuations, or self-isolation and quarantine in the event of a pandemic). Of course, the Emergency Manager will typically have power to amend or terminate orders as an emergency situation evolves.

Training/Webinars

TMPD WEBINAR: Impacts COVID 19
Part 1 – Signatory Impacts & RC Support

 

TMPD WEBINAR: Impacts COVID 19
Part 2 – Emergency Planning

TMPD WEBINAR: Impacts COVID 19
Part 3 – COVID 19 Laws and Emergency Management Laws

For more information, please contact:

Andrew Beynon, Law Making & Enforcement
    613-899-4594
   andrew.beynon@labrc.com