New emergency management legislation, task force pave way for resilient communities

Press Release

Oct. 3, 2023

VICTORIA – People and communities in British Columbia will be better prepared for emergencies and disasters under the most comprehensive and progressive emergency management framework in Canada with the introduction of the emergency and disaster management act, and the launch of an expert task force on emergencies.

Communities throughout B.C. are dealing with the adverse effects of climate change, including more frequent and severe weather events that threaten homes, businesses and infrastructure.

When passed, the new emergency and disaster management act will implement a more proactive approach to emergency management – with an emphasis on disaster risk reduction – to safeguard people and communities.

Complementing the legislation, the emergencies task force, made up of 14 experts in emergency and wildfire management, will begin work immediately and provide action-oriented recommendations on enhancing emergency preparedness and response in advance of the 2024 wildfire season.

“A changing climate means people and communities around B.C. are feeling the effects of extreme weather emergencies like never before,” said Premier David Eby. “We’re taking action with a strong and proactive approach to emergency management, one that will be guided by an expert task force with representatives from First Nations, local government and more. Our focus is on supporting those on the front lines of a disaster and quickly applying the lessons we’ve learned to better prepare for future emergencies.”

The new legislation, introduced on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, incorporates lessons learned from recent emergencies and reflects modern risks and realities, including climate change and transmissible diseases, such as COVID-19. The legislation adheres to the United Nations’ best practices for disaster risk reduction and incorporates all four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

“Over the last number of years, British Columbians have experienced extreme climate disasters and we’ve learned a lot about how we can be better prepared for emergencies to keep people safe,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. “From this summer’s wildfires and drought to the atmospheric rivers and extreme heat of 2021, we know first-hand how climate change can affect our lives. This act modernizes how our province approaches emergency management by putting a greater emphasis on preparing for and mitigating the impacts of climate-related emergencies before they happen – keeping people and communities safer from disasters.”

The legislation formally recognizes First Nations’ inherent right of self-government in relation to emergency management. The legislation recognizes First Nations’ traditional territories and treaty areas, represents Indigenous governing bodies consistent with B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and enables co-ordination agreements with Indigenous governing bodies. The emergency and disaster management act is an important step in aligning B.C.’s approach with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Province is committed to continuing work with First Nations to progress efforts to support alignment under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Implementation of the emergency and disaster management act will be phased in over time. The Province is working with First Nations and local governments to ensure they have the support they need to successfully implement the legislation.

Premier Eby has appointed representatives from the Province, First Nations, local governments and other experts to the task force. The team will identify lessons learned from the 2023 wildfire season, and opportunities to improve preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery to better support people on the front lines of emergencies. Task force members will draw on their individual expertise, and will engage with front-line workers, First Nations, local governments and key industries, such as agriculture and tourism that experienced challenges during the 2023 wildfire season.

“We are committed to protecting British Columbians from extreme weather emergencies caused by climate change,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “While we have made significant investments in emergency management in recent years, the emergency-response landscape has changed due to the frequency and severity of climate-driven emergency events. The new expert task force on emergencies will bring together on-the-ground experience from across the region and strengthen emergency response throughout B.C.”

The task force will deliver recommendations to government in early 2024 to address key priorities related to emergency management and wildfire management.

Quick Facts:

  • The emergency and disaster management act will replace the Emergency Program Act, which has not been substantially updated since 1993.
  • Modernized emergency management regulations to complement the act will be introduced in a phased approach, starting in late 2023.
  • The regulations will be developed in consultation and co-operation with First Nations.
  • In addition to continuous improvements to emergency management, the emergency and disaster management act will be reviewed within five years of receiving royal assent.

Learn More:

To learn more about the emergency and disaster management act, visit:

To learn more about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, visit:

To learn more about the United Nations Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, visit:

Two backgrounders follow.


Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430


What people are saying about the emergency and disaster management act

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president, Union of BC Indian Chiefs –

“The Province’s proposed emergency and disaster management act is a critically important step forward in helping to ensure that First Nations’ inherent right of self-government is implemented in the face of ever-increasing natural disasters. The fires and floods we have experienced over the last few years as a result of the climate crisis are, unfortunately, not anomalies. First Nations need to be able to respond to these emergencies, as governments, in order to protect their lands and all of the wildlife, fish and birds that depend on them. The legislation recognizes this important responsibility held by First Nations. Although more work is needed to fully align the Province’s approaches to emergency and disaster response with the UN Declaration – including making the consent and full participation of every First Nation in B.C. the standard for all emergency and disaster responses in their respective territories – this legislation puts us on a better path to respond to the ongoing climate challenges we will need to address together.”
Robert Phillips, First Nations Summit political executive –

“Recent fire and flood seasons have clearly magnified that existing provincial emergency management legislation is outdated, inadequate and does not support a meaningful government-to-government relationship with First Nations in B.C. We have long advocated for modernized provincial legislation that reflects the multi-jurisdictional landscape in which emergency management operates, including planning and response. It will be imperative that this new legislation result in strong government-to-government relationships with First Nations in all aspects of emergency management, premised on acknowledgement and respect for First Nations’ title and jurisdiction within their respective territories. The proposed provincial emergency and disaster management act will hopefully prove to be a step in the right direction.”

Terry Teegee, Regional Chief, BC Assembly of First Nations –

“This is a much-needed update to the emergency management regime in B.C. First Nations maintain their rights to decide, prepare, mitigate and recover from emergencies. B.C. needs to ensure their laws and regulations will work in partnership with First Nations governments. The BC Assembly of First Nations supports the inclusion of First Nations in all areas of emergency management. This has been another historic year for wildfires and we always are the first to feel the impacts from the climate emergency. We released the First Nations Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy last week, which will guide what First Nations need and want in emergency management. Government and industry must thoroughly understand this DRR strategy.”

taayii ḥaw̓ił Anne Mack, Toquaht Nation –

“Toquaht Nation was pleased to work with British Columbia to co-develop the new emergency management legislation. Thanks to that co-development process, the legislation respects the unique position of Modern Treaty Nations. It reflects our status as self-governing Nations and will provide welcome clarity for our governments when working with British Columbia, local authorities and other partners in dealing with emergencies.”

Charles McCarthy, president, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government – Ucluelet First Nation –

“We are satisfied to have the self-governing rights of Modern Treaty Nations recognized in the co-development of this legislation. The Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government – Ucluelet First Nation – is one of many Nations residing in a remote location, without direct access to emergency resources and minimal evacuation accessibility in the event of an emergency or disaster crisis. This legislation will aid our Nation’s emergency management plans, including law amendments, allowing us the right to extend our self-governing authority to take emergency response measures as deemed necessary on Treaty Settlement Lands.”

Susie Hooper, Minister of Environmental Protection, Métis Nation British Columbia –

“Climate-related emergencies disproportionately impact Métis and First Nation communities across British Columbia. The interjurisdictional nature of these emergencies and responses have not always taken into consideration the diverse needs and impacts on Indigenous people. By modernizing B.C.’s emergency legislation, Métis Nation BC is pleased to see cultural safety as a key principle and consideration in risk assessment and emergency management planning. This collaborative approach will enhance response and recovery, but most importantly, it will help address the diverse needs of Métis on the frontlines of climate change.”

Marianne Alto, mayor, City of Victoria –

“I strongly support modernized legislation that addresses climate-related emergencies and supports vulnerable groups, while empowering Indigenous self-governance and providing much-needed provincial funding for new municipal disaster mitigation and planning requirements.”

Everett Baker, mayor, City of Grand Forks –

“The emergency and disaster management act modernizes the legislation to include much more than just response to emergencies. In the years since the floods of 2018, Grand Forks has lived in the recovery phase while actively working on mitigation and preparation to ensure readiness for future events. We commend the provincial government for addressing the needs of local governments in making resources available to support all stages of emergency response.”


Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430

Members of the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies

  • Chief Corrina Leween, Cheslatta Carrier Nation
  • Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc
  • Kukpi7 Lynn Kenoras-Duck, Adams Lake Indian Band
  • Wayne Schnitzler, executive director, First Nations Emergency Services Society
  • Tanya Spooner, manager of emergency programs, City of Prince George
  • Scott Hildebrand, chief administrative officer, Thompson Nicola Regional District
  • Thom Porter, former director, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Dan Derby, regional fire chief, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary; president, Fire Chiefs Association of BC
  • Shannon Salter, Office of the Premier
  • Doug Caul, Office of the Premier
  • Eamon O’Donoghue, Ministry of Forests
  • Ian Meier, BC Wildfire Service, Ministry of Forests
  • Teresa Dobmeier, Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
  • Madeline Maley, Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness

The task force will provide advice to government on opportunities to strengthen preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery for implementation in 2024 within the scope of:

  • enhancing BC Wildfire Predictive Services current technology, including the use of artificial intelligence and other technologies;
  • planning for incorporation of local volunteer resources for wildfire response;
  • improving integration of rural and municipal fire departments into the BC Wildfire Service response in the wildland urban interface;
  • updating the Wildfire Emergency Response Strategy for B.C.;
  • strengthening community participation in all disciplines of FireSmart;
  • expanding opportunities in wildfire prevention programs;
  • enhancing Evacuees Registration Assistance (ERA) tool to provide fully digital support for evacuees;
  • modernizing community delivery of emergency support services, including post-wildfire support; and
  • identifying opportunities to assist First Nations and local authorities improve evacuation orders and alerts awareness and compliance.


Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
Media Relations
250 880-6430


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