Flooding in First Nations communities

Seasonal flooding can put First Nations communities at risk. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) regional officials work closely with First Nations at risk of flooding and partners to help ensure emergency preparedness and response plans are in place and fund eligible flood mitigation preparedness and response measures.

On this page

Flood risk by region

Flood risk monitoring and emergency response is managed by the provinces and territories. For more information on flood monitoring in your region, consult the regional organizations listed below.

Newfoundland

Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Quebec

Ontario

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta

British Columbia

Northwest Territories

Yukon

Nunavut

Preparing for a flood

To learn more about preparing for a flood, visit Flood Ready.

Visit Canadian Red Cross's website for information on how to prepare for emergencies:

Steering Committee on First Nation Home Flood Insurance Needs

On May 18, 2021, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Assembly of First Nations launched the Steering Committee on First Nation Home Flood Insurance Needs to examine the specific home flood insurance needs of First Nations on reserves.

The Steering Committee includes representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association (NALMA) and the First Nations Housing Professionals Association (FNHPA). Committee members also come from several federal government departments and agencies, Indigenous owned and conventional insurance firms and the University of Waterloo.

Over the next year, the committee will engage First Nations across Canada, gather key information, consult with subject matter experts and obtain First Nations-specific context regarding home flood risk insurance. This work will inform possible recommendations on potential flood insurance options, to be co-developed with First Nations.

Engaging First Nations from the beginning of the process respects ISC’s mandate to advance First Nations self-determination and self-government.

Flood preparation measures in First Nations communities

Structural mitigation

ISC works with First Nations to support on-reserve structural mitigation projects that protect First Nations communities from climate-related hazards. Projects include:

  • dikes
  • sea walls
  • erosion-control measures

As of December 31, 2020, ISC has invested $80.2 million to support 70 structural mitigation and related feasibility and design projects, 37 of which are complete. These projects will benefit 80 First Nations communities serving approximately 85,000 people.

Budget 2019 committed $48 million over 4 years, starting in 2020 to 2021, to renew funding for structural mitigation projects. As this funding is delivered through the terms and conditions of the First Nations Infrastructure Fund, potential structural mitigation projects are to be identified by First Nations communities and provided to the regional offices.

Emergency Management Assistance Program

ISC administers Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP) as the main source of federal funding to reimburse on-reserve emergency management activities, including:

  • flood mitigation
  • preparedness
  • response
  • recovery

The program also provides funding to provinces, territories and non-government organizations to support on-reserve emergency management and response services.

In addition, the Building Back Better Strategy for implementing EMAP offers additional supports to reduce First Nations communities' vulnerability and strengthen resilience in response and recovery.

Specific examples in each region are set out below.

Atlantic

Through response and recovery, ISC supports First Nations on reserves in responding to imminent threats, including flooding, and recovery from emergency events. The Building Back Better strategy is used to implement measures to prevent or reduce the risk of future flooding.

In the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year, ISC provided support for the following projects in Atlantic Canada to support preparedness and non-structural mitigation activities to address flooding:

  • All-hazards risk assessment plans are in development for 9 First Nations communities in Atlantic Region:
    • Acadia First Nation, Nova Scotia
    • Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation, Nova Scotia
    • Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Kingsclear First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Oromocto First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Pabineau First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Tobique First Nation, New Brunswick
    • Mushuau Innu First Nation, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Two Nova Scotia tribal councils, the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq and the Union of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq, are developing a series of workbooks to:
    • assess risks
    • develop a heat map of risks
    • prioritize mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities for all Nova Scotia First Nations
  • Flood mitigation work continued for Indian Island, Elsipogtog and Esgenoopetitj First Nations through the Building Back Better strategy
  • Woodstock First Nation completed a storm water study and mitigation and impact reduction work
  • Since January 2020, ISC has provided capacity enhancement funding to First Nations and Tribal Councils in all 4 Atlantic provinces to support First Nation Emergency Management Coordinators to plan for and deal with various natural emergencies, including flooding

Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP) funding has been provided to emergency management coordinators at the following organizations:

  • North Shore Micmac District Council
  • Wolastoqey
  • Mawiw Council
  • Mi'Kmaq Confederacy of PEI
  • Miawpukek First Nation
  • Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq
  • Union of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq
  • Eskasoni First Nation (Part-time pilot project)

In addition to providing funding support to First Nations on reserve under the 4 pillars of emergency management, ISC works collaboratively with provincial partners and other federal departments to support flood preparedness and mitigation.

ISC will monitor the New Brunswick Riverwatch program, participate in provincial Riverwatch briefings and disseminate key situational awareness information to First Nations once the monitoring system is in place for 2021.

Quebec

ISC supports First Nations preparedness activities in Quebec on an annual and recurring basis, including emergency management plan updates, exercises and training.

Non-structural mitigation measures were implemented with the financial support of ISC, such as:

  • addition of Waterguard system in houses that were at risk of flood due to high water tables (Nutashkuan First Nation and Kanesetake)
  • raising housing foundations in the groundwater flood zone (Listuguj)
  • sandbags in store in case of floods (Kanesatake, Pekuakamiulnutsh Takuhikan)
  • alert system and evacuation plans (Chisasibi)

In addition to direct investments, ISC supports First Nations by way of the following measures and projects:

  • providing funding for the Grand Council of the Waban-Aki Nation to set up an emergency management assistance program for the benefit of First Nations following the 4 pillars of emergency management:
    • mitigation
    • preparedness
    • response
    • recovery
  • regional agreement with the Canadian Red Cross to support First Nations prepare for and during evacuations:
    • training and exercises in risk management
    • emergency management planning
    • incident response command systems
    • emergency operations centres
    • disaster services flood risk monitoring
    • flood response support

for all First Nations in collaboration with the provincial government.

As of the end of fiscal year 2020 to 2021, funding has been provided to emergency management specialist and liaison officers to the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban Aki.

The Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec is responsible for civil security in the province and supports local municipalities in the protection of their citizens and property against disasters.

The Quebec-ISC bilateral agreement includes provincial assistance to First Nations in Quebec during disasters and allows the federal and provincial governments to collaborate on disaster risk management.

Ontario

ISC works with its partners regularly to explore new and innovative ways to improve how emergency programs are delivered for the benefit of First Nations communities. ISC supports flood watch for the Mushkegowuk Council and the First Nations communities along the coasts of the Hudson Bay and James Bay including:

  • Fort Albany
  • Attawapiskat
  • Kashechewan
  • Weenusk
  • Moose Cree
  • Fort Severn

Other activities:

  • In 2020 to 2021, funding was provided for a precautionary evacuation of Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations that enabled residents to temporarily move to higher ground in traditional hunting camps, mitigating the need to evacuate to urban centres during flooding caused by the spring break-up
  • A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Mattagami First Nation for the First Nation to provide liaison services on behalf of ISC during evacuations in host communities along Ontario's Highway 11 corridor
  • Budget 2019 announced national capacity funding of $43.7 million over 5 years for the creation of First Nations emergency management coordinators. In Ontario, 18 emergency management coordinators support First Nations capacity to plan for and deal with various natural emergencies, including flooding
  • As of the end of fiscal year 2020 to 2021, funding has been provided to emergency management coordinators at the following organizations:
    • Anishinabek Nation
    • Bimose Tribal Council
    • Grand Council Treaty #3
    • Independent First Nation Alliance (IFNA)
    • Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council
    • Nokiiwin Tribal Council
    • Matawa First Nations Management
    • Mushkegowuk Council
    • Nishnawbe Aski Nation
    • Ontario First Nations Technical Service Corporation (OFNTSC)
    • Wabun Tribal Council
    • Windigo First Nations Council
  • New partnerships have been established with various First Nations and First Nations organizations to develop Indigenous-led security and protection teams to assist and protect First Nations residents when they are evacuated to host communities
  • Support was provided to build an Indigenous-led and operated rapid response deployable emergency team at Independent First Nations Alliance. This team will deploy directly to First Nations communities dealing with emergencies to provide on-the-ground assistance
  • In fiscal year 2021 to 2022, ISC will enter year 4 of a 10-year bilateral agreement with the Ministry of the Solicitor General designed to strengthen the province of Ontario's response capacity to natural hazards and events affecting First Nations
  • Working with Nishnawbe Aski Nation, funding has been provided to evaluate the effectiveness of response efforts and the participation of Indigenous peoples in times of emergency efforts related to their communities

Manitoba

Prevention and mitigation efforts are crucial to avoiding future situations such as the severe 2011 Manitoba flood. To date, ISC has invested more than $80 million to protect Manitoba First Nations from future flooding. This included approximately $54.9 million to construct permanent dikes or make temporary dikes permanent at 11 First Nations in Manitoba:

  • Sioux Valley
  • Opaskwayak
  • Canupawakpa
  • Sandy Bay
  • Ebb and Flow
  • Lake Manitoba
  • O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi
  • Little Saskatchewan
  • Poplar River
  • Berens River
  • Kinonjeoshtegon

A permanent ring dike has also been in place at Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation since 2004.

The province of Manitoba issues annual spring flood outlooks which ISC and First Nations in Manitoba use to evaluate and monitor for potential flooding.

Since January 2020, ISC has provided capacity enhancement funding to all 63 First Nations and 7 Tribal Councils in Manitoba to support communities' and Tribal Councils' First Nations Emergency Management Coordinators.

With support from ISC, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs organized the virtual 2020 Manitoba Flood Preparedness Forum where all were invited to participate in information sharing and planning related to flooding.

ISC signed a 5-year agreement with the Canadian Red Cross, effective April 1, 2017 to support Manitoba First Nations in emergency situations, including managing response and evacuations due to:

  • flood
  • fire
  • other circumstances

The Red Cross will also work with Manitoba First Nations in preparing the communities for potential emergencies. Under the agreement, ISC has committed $5.8 million over 5 years for the Canadian Red Cross to provide these services.

The Canadian Red Cross is investing an additional $2.9 million to provide emergency resources and personnel support to Manitoba First Nations.

Saskatchewan

During the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year, ISC provided EMAP funding to :

  • 52 of 70 Saskatchewan First Nations
  • 8 of 9 Tribal Councils
  • Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management Organization

Funding supported and enhanced emergency management capacity at the community level, including spring flood planning through the following:

  • creating community emergency management leads and liaisons to provide emergency management planning, guidance and advice to leadership, the First Nations and partners
  • forming community emergency management teams and committees
  • developing and updating community all-hazard emergency management plans, including all-hazard risk assessments
  • exercise design and related training (for example, basic emergency management, creating incident command systems and emergency operations centers) addressing emergency social services and training information officers
  • community engagement to enhance preparedness, response, and recovery capacity

Through EMAP, ISC also supports:

annual First Nations Emergency Management Forum where Saskatchewan First Nations planning in sharing of emergency management initiatives and experiences, lessons learned, relationship building and partnerships

  • After Action Reports with First Nations, Tribal Councils and partners as part of a post-evacuation assessments
  • EOC activation and training to coordinate and manage emergency events at community level
  • First Nations discussions related to agreement development with Canadian Red Cross (CRC) for direct assistance during emergencies, including evacuations

With investments from ISC, structural mitigation projects to address flooding are also underway in:

  • Muskoday First Nation: community drainage study
  • Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation: drainage and lot improvements at Southend and Pelican Narrows
  • Red Earth Cree Nation: river dike extension
  • Star Blanket Cree Nation: community drainage (Village of Lebret)
  • Whitecap Dakota First Nation: community drainage and Buffalo Berry subdivision drainage works
  • Witchekan Lake First Nation: community roads and drainage
  • Zagime Anishinabek: community drainage study

ISC also supports First Nations in responding to imminent threats, such as overland flooding, by reducing excessive snowpack and opening culverts and ditches in areas historically affected by rapid snow melt.

As of March 8, 2021, ISC began engaging with:

  • First Nations
  • tribal councils
  • provinces
  • federal partners
  • non-government organizations

specific to spring flooding.

Alberta

ISC continues to support Alberta First Nations on reserves in:

  • reducing the potential for flooding that threatens residents, houses and other infrastructure
  • responding to imminent threats
  • recovering from flood events

ISC uses the Building Back Better strategy to:

  • support the restoration of communities and assets
  • reduce the vulnerability of First Nations communities to future flood events
  • strengthen community resilience to future flood events

ISC has a comprehensive emergency management service agreement with the Province of Alberta. The agreement ensures that Alberta First Nations are fully integrated into the provincial emergency management system. This includes a direct provincial presence, as required, during emergency events on-reserve that is integrated with the broader provincial response as well as preparedness training and emergency planning assistance.

ISC supports a number of projects on reserves specifically focused on preparedness and mitigation for overland flooding.

Funded by ISC, the Alberta Bow River Basin Flood Hazard Assessment Project assesses flood hazards for the parts of the Bow River Basin flowing through the Siksika, Tsuut'ina and Stoney Tribe Nations. The project supports these First Nations in developing options for flood mitigation.

ISC's Alberta Region has also begun an Alberta Regional Emergency Management Capacity Initiative. The initiative has asked for input from Alberta Chiefs, Tribal Councils and band staff responsible for emergency management at all 48 of Alberta's First Nations to ensure the path forward is collaborative.

Capacity funding was provided for coordination teams at:

  • Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations
  • Treaty 7 First Nations Chiefs' Association
  • Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta

Coordination teams work with First Nations in their respective Treaty areas to ensure gaps are identified and addressed. Information gathered will be shared with Chiefs, provincial partners, and ISC to improve emergency management service delivery to all Alberta First Nations in a collaborative, First Nation-centred approach.

The goal for capacity funding allocations is that they will be determined by Alberta Chiefs through agreed upon processes and recipients, with input from provincial and federal partners.

British Columbia

ISC has a service agreement with Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC) to provide emergency management services on reserves comparable to those available to other BC communities. During an emergency such as flooding, EMBC is the lead in supporting First Nations with their response activities.

In BC, there is also a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding on emergency management services with:

  • ISC
  • First Nations Leadership Council
  • Province of British Columbia

to ensure that First Nations have a voice in the governance and operations of emergency management in the province.

Through Budget 2019 capacity funding, ISC is currently supporting 11 Emergency Preparedness Coordinator positions in BC serving 66 First Nations. By 2022, the department expects to fund up to 17 positions in BC on an ongoing basis.

The following projects have been completed or are in progress to address potential flooding issues:

  • Gitanmaax
    • Bulkley River bank erosion protection of an existing community access road
    • Design currently in progress
  • Kwantlen First Nation
    • Bank erosion protection for infrastructure and lands on McMillan Island IR 6. Construction completed and the project is currently in the post-construction environmental monitoring stage
    • Flood plain strategy development funded by First Nations Adapt
  • Lower Kootenay
    • Dike reconstruction, which included creating new set-back dikes protecting on and off reserve assets
    • Construction completed and the project is currently in the post-construction environmental monitoring stage
  • Nisga'a Village of Laxgalt'sap
    • Project studies related to dredging Greenville Creek and dike are completed
    • Raising adjacent subdivision lands above the flood plain levels using the river dredging materials is completed
    • Tsunami wave and storm surge event flood risk study on the Nass River is completed
    • Preparing a long-term design solution to reduce sediment debris within the local river system is in progress
  • Nooaitch
    • Completed design and construction of long-term erosion mitigation works at bank failure locations along the main access road to Nooaitch IR 10
  • Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council (cost shared with First Nations Adapt)
    • A coastal vulnerability study project is in progress to develop models for coastal communities around Vancouver Island's West Coast to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge and its effects on infrastructure
    • As of March 2021, 12 communities have been completed:
      • Ahousaht
      • Ehattesaht
      • Hesquiaht
      • Hupacasath First Nation
      • Huu-ay-aht First Nations
      • Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k:tles7et'h' First Nations
      • Nuchatlaht
      • Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations
      • Toquaht
      • Tseshaht
      • Uchucklesaht
      • Ucluelet First Nation
    • Investigations for 2021 to 2022 include Ditidaht and Mowachat/Muchalaht
  • North Coast (Cost shared with First Nations Adapt)
    • A north coastal vulnerability study is in progress to develop models for coastal communities to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge and its effects on the infrastructure of First Nations communities in Northern British Columbia
    • As of March 2021, 20 communities have been completed:
      • Gitga'at First Nation
      • Gitxaala Nation
      • Haisla Nation
      • Lax Kw'alaams
      • Metlakatla First Nation
      • Nisga'a Village of Gingolx
      • Nisga'a Village of Laxgalt'ap
      • Old Massett Village Council
      • Skidegate
      • Heiltsuk
      • Kitasoo
      • Nuxalk Nation
      • Tlatlasikwala
      • Wuikinuxv Nation
      • Gwa'Sala-Nakwaxda'xw
      • Gwawaenuk Tribe
      • K'ómoks First Nation
      • Kwakiutl
      • Mamalilikulla First Nation
      • Namgis First Nation
  • Planned investigations for 2020 to 2021 include:
    • Da'naxda'xw First Nation
    • Dzawada'enuxw First Nation
    • Klahoose First Nation
    • Kwiakah
    • Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis
    • Tla'amin Nation
    • Tlowitsis Tribe
  • Naut'sa Mawt Tribal Council (cost shared with First Nations Adapt)
    • A coastal vulnerability study project is in progress to develop models for coastal communities around Vancouver Island to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge and its effects on infrastructure for Vancouver Island communities
    • Investigations completed as of March 2021 include:
      • Pacheedaht First Nation
      • T'Sou-ke First Nation
      • Esquimalt
      • Songhees Nation
      • Tsartlip
      • Malahat Nation
    • Planned investigations for 2020 to 2021 include:
      • Tsawout First Nation
      • Halalt First Nation
      • Penelakut Tribe
    • Of the remaining coastal communities, approximately 11 are planned to be completed in the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year
  • Skwah, Shxwhá:y Village and the City of Chilliwack
    • A joint flood and erosion protection project of both First Nations and the City of Chilliwack is currently in design.
  • Soowahlie
    • Reconstruction of a failed dike section completed in 2018
    • Construction of river training works completed in 2019 and the project is currently in the post-construction environmental monitoring stage
  • Gwa'Sala-Nakwaxda'xw
    • Coastal flood protection investigations of the community are in progress
  • Metlakatla First Nation
    • Coastal erosion protection works for existing infrastructure:
      • phase 1 construction started in 2018 to 2019
      • phase 2 construction was completed in 2019
      • phase 3 was completed in December 2020 with costs shared with province
    • Joint initiative with National Research Council and Natural Resources Canada with funding from Department of National Defence to initiate a post-construction monitoring program and nature-based guideline development; to be completed in March 2024
  • Peters First Nation
    • Initiating assessment and design of flood protection upgrades for existing homes and identifying upgrades to address climate change predictions identified for the overall river valley
    • Design was funded in 2018
    • Urgent erosion protection works funded by EMAP completed in March 2019
    • Construction is expected to start in 2021
  • Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis
    • Investigations of coastal erosion works completed
  • Sto:lo Nation and Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance (cost shared with First Nations Adapt)
    • Funded the creation of a secretariat in fiscal year 2018 to 2019 to facilitate, collaborate and consolidate the coordination of 60 First Nations in the Lower Fraser River Valley with the Fraser Basin Council and the Lower Fraser Flood Plain Strategy, both in progress
  • Samahquam
    • Started design in 2018 for community flood protection works
    • Construction to relocate and reconstruct 8 homes out of the flood plain is planned to start as funding is made available
  • Seabird Island
    • Started designs for upgrades to the community flood protection works to address level updates and climate change predictions on the Lower Fraser River
    • Pre-design is completed
    • Funding for detailed design received funding in December 2020
    • Construction anticipated for April 2022
  • Cowichan
    • Ongoing sediment removal program to maintain flow capacity of the river system through the community
    • Funding provided for additional sediment removal funded in 2019 to 2020. 2/3 funding was provided by the community
    • An agreement has been signed with the province to develop a long-term solution, and the joint funding application was successful in August 2020
  • Squamish
    • Flood protection investigations of the Capilano River system within the community is in progress
    • Updated review of flood protection works within Cheakamus subdivision in progress
    • Flood protection strategy with local municipality and regional district for the Seaichem Reserve in progress and funded by regional district
  • K'όmoks First Nation
    • Started design for coastal erosion works in 2018
    • Construction to start when funding is made available
  • Kwadacha
    • Flood protection investigations to update design levels with recent monitoring information and potential climate change impacts is in progress
  • Katzie
    • Flood protection investigations for 3 reserves along the Fraser River; funding request completed
  • Gitwangak
    • Design funding for flood protection works planned for April 2021
  • Leq'á:mel First Nation
    • EMAP-funded flood protection assessment in progress
  • Old Massett Village Council
    • Emergency erosion protection works completed 2019
    • Long-term erosion protection works funded by First Nations Adapt in progress
  • Whispering Pines urgent dike protection and repair works:
    • Section of damage dike reconstructed May 2020
    • Designs for erosion protection works funded in July 2020
    • Construction of the proposed erosion protection works will begin as funds are made available
  • Worked with the emergency management unit on various flood response and recovery efforts from the 2020 freshet season and coastal storm events, including:
    • Nisga'a Village of Laxgaltsa'p (coastal storm)
    • Nuxalk First Nation (coastal storm)
    • Halalt First Nation (coastal storm)
    • Cowichan First Nation (coastal storm)
    • Canoe Creek First Nation (debris flow)
    • Bonaparte First Nation (freshet)
    • Xatsull First Nation (freshet)
    • Williams Lake (freshet)
    • Canim Lake First Nation (freshet)
    • Nazko First Nation (freshet)
    • Upper Nicola First Nation (freshet)

Yukon

Lower Post First Nation in British Columbia, which falls under ISC's Yukon region, completed erosion protection works on the Liard River.

As well, ISC has provided emergency management training to the 3 First Nations in northern British Columbia that the region supports:

  • Daylu Dena Council
  • Dease River First Nation
  • Taku River First Nation

Each year, ISC provides funding to Yukon and Northern B.C. First Nations for FireSmart activities and for emergency management planning, training and equipment.

In 2016, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon announced a 7-year bilateral agreement to provide emergency management services to White River First Nation, Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation.

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