Feds reimburse $15M to Indigenous groups for wildfire expenses

Firefighters at work during the summer of 2023. (NWT Fire photo)

Indigenous governments and organizations impacted by the 2023 wildfire season have been given a total of $15 million to reimburse them for expenses incurred supporting their members.

Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal stated in a release: “The funding will support Indigenous governments and organizations who stepped up to provide aide and shelter to their evacuated neighbours to ensure they can continue to be there for future emergencies.”

NWT MP Michael McLeod stated when the communities were, “we really saw everyone banding together to help get people out safely. Now we want to make sure that Indigenous partners aren’t negatively impacted as a result of providing culturally-appropriate supports during those challenging times.”

Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty stated in a release the Tłı̨chǫ people and lands were severely impacted by the 2023 wildfire season.

“As a self-government, we have a responsibility to take care of our people and we mobilized an emergency response to ensure our people were cared for. We are pleased that Canada has recognized and is supporting the important role of Indigenous governments in emergency management with this funding.

“We have a lot of work to do together to ensure stronger collaboration on emergency management moving forward, and Tłı̨chǫ Government is keen to work with all levels of government to support this critical work.”

Between May 4 and October 15, 2023, 304 wildfires burned over 4.1 million hectares across the Northwest Territories. Many of these wildfires threatened NWT communities and resulted in many community evacuations, displacing nearly 70% of NWT residents from their homes.

Many Indigenous governments and organizations used their own funds to help out their community members, through chartering flights, paying for accommodations, and providing cultural supports to those who were evacuated.

Eleven Indigenous governments and organizations receiving up to $100,000 include:

  • Inuvialuit Regional Corporation – $36,647
  • The Tłegǫ́hłı̨ Got’įnę Government – $90,000
  • Fort Norman Métis – $50,660
  • Pedzeh Ki First Nation – $99,920
  • Nahanni Butte First Nation – $100,000
  • Deh Gah Gotie Dene Council – $100,000
  • Sambaa K’e First Nation – $100,000
  • Deninu Kue First Nation – $99,068
  • Acho Dene Koe First Nation – $100,000
  • Hay River and Area Métis Local 51 – $100,000
  • Hay River Métis Council – $98,137

For some communities, additional funding is being provided based on needs identified by the organizations:

  • Fort Good Hope First Nation – $1,527,062
  • Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government – $1,229,518
  • Tłı̨chǫ Government – $5,317,330
  • Dehcho First Nations – $181,400
  • Jean Marie River First Nation – $233,433
  • West Point First Nation – $285,220
  • Yellowknives Dene First Nation – $1,046,552
  • Łutselk’e Dene First Nation – $548,380
  • Salt River First Nation – $1,364,483
  • Northwest Territory Métis Nation – $384,691
  • Fort Smith Métis Local – $274,890
  • North Slave Métis Alliance – $259,127
  • Yamoga Land Corporation – $160,945
  • Dene Nation – $101,950
  • Gwich’in Tribal Council – $283,000
  • Tulita Dene Band – $827,587.00

This investment augments the funding provided by other federal departments in response to the 2023 wildfire season, including by Public Safety and Indigenous Services Canada.

Increasing whole-of-society emergency management capabilities in Arctic and northern communities is one of the objectives of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.