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.
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.
Prince Edward Island
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:
Flood preparation measures in First Nations communities
ISC provides funding support for flood preparation and mitigation measures in First Nations communities. This includes up to $8.6 million in March and April 2019 to prevent spring flooding in 34 at-risk communities in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Manitoba. Specific examples in each region are set out below.
As well, as of December 31, 2018 and since Budget 2016 was announced, 45 structural mitigation projects have been completed or are underway, benefiting 53 First Nations communities. Projects include improving dikes, upgrading culverts and flood mitigation planning.
A surface and storm water mitigation program is in progress for Indian Island First Nation in New Brunswick. The program covers surface and storm water management planning, housing infrastructure review and upgrades to community drainage network.
Overland flooding due to melting snow in spring is common in Atlantic First Nations, especially in New Brunswick. In 2019, ISC has supported 9 New Brunswick First Nations for emergency removal of excessive snowpack from areas which have been historically vulnerable to overland flooding due to snow melt:
- Eel Ground
- Eel River Bar
- Indian Island
The Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick has been historically vulnerable to overland flooding due to severe rainstorms and rapid snow melting. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, ISC funded Elsipogtog First Nation to conduct a flood mitigation study. The study was completed in fiscal 2018-2019 and provides the basis for the development of a plan. In March 2019, ISC funded a study to look at mitigation measures that could be put in place to reduce the recurring flooding in about 70 homes.
ISC has also supported the Mushuau Innu First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador for emergency snow removal to prevent flooding from snow melt.
An overland flooding mitigation program for the Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia has been underway since 2016. Acadia First Nation, also in Nova Scotia, started a flood mapping study in 2018.
In April 2015, Canada and the province of Prince Edward Island signed a 4 year agreement to ensure Abegweit and Lennox Island First Nations receive the same level of emergency management services as every other Islander.
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)
- sandbags in store in case of floods (Kanesatake, Pekuakamiulnutsh Takuhikan)
- alert system and evacuation plans (Chisasibi, Wemotaci)
In addition to direct investments, ISC supports First Nations by way of the following measures and projects:
- regional agreement with the Canadian Red Cross for assistance during evacuations
- National Symposium on Resilience in First Nations
- training and exercises in risk management, emergency management planning, incident command system and emergency operation centres
- flood watch and flood response in all First Nations with the collaboration of the Provincial government
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.
ISC supports emergency preparedness activities for all First Nations in Ontario. ISC contracts the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation to work with First Nations to:
- review and update their emergency management plans
- train and test the preparedness of First Nations' staff
ISC also supports flood watch for the Mushkegowuk Council and the First Nations communities of:
- Fort Albany
- Moose Cree
- Fort Severn
Other ISC-supported activities include:
- the Mushkegowuk Council's feasibility study for a culturally appropriate evacuation camp to serve their communities, some of which are forced to evacuate yearly due to flooding hazards
- funding for the Mushkegowuk Council to send James Bay emergency management coordinators to the Flood and Fire Symposium hosted by the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management
Since 1992, Canada has had a Memorandum of Understanding with Ontario to ensure First Nations receive emergency response support, including for flooding.
Prevention and mitigation efforts are crucial to avoiding future situations such as the severe 2011 Manitoba flood. As of May 2019, 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
- Sandy Bay
- Ebb and Flow
- Lake Manitoba
- Little Saskatchewan
- Poplar River
- Berens River
A permanent ring dike is also in place at Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation since 2004.
With support from ISC, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs organized the Manitoba Flood Preparedness Forum in February 2019, which brought together First Nations in Manitoba routinely affected by flooding. Participants discussed strategies and exchanged knowledge related to flood outlook, services, tools and templates in order to increase awareness and capacity around flood preparation, response and recovery.
In response to the imminent threat of spring flooding and with support from ISC, 21 First Nations communities in Manitoba undertook flood prevention activities such as clearing and steaming culverts and drains and clearing out ditches of brush, snow and debris.
With funding support from ISC, the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council is working to complete the fourth phase of its Command Centre project to serve the First Nations of:
- Dauphin River
- Lake Manitoba
- Little Saskatchewan
Numerous training sessions were held with the 6 communities to enhance their emergency management preparedness capabilities.
With funding from ISC, Fort Alexander First Nation is undertaking shoreline erosion protection works and Peguis First Nation is doing a feasibility study on work needed to mitigate flood damage to housing.
ISC continues to make significant investments to reduce the potential for flooding that threatens residents, houses and infrastructure in Saskatchewan First Nations communities.
In addition to direct investments to First Nations in Saskatchewan, ISC has an arrangement with the province of Saskatchewan to provide emergency response and recovery support to First Nations.
With investments from ISC, structural mitigation projects to address flooding are also underway in the following First Nations communities:
- Mistawasis Nehiyawak Band
- project to improve local drainage to better deal with spring runoff
- Lac La Ronge First Nation Stanley Mission Reserve
- multi-activity project including removing damaged culverts and installing replacements, repairing damaged roadways and re-grading existing ditches
- Montreal Lake Cree Nation
- drainage improvements to reduce seasonal flooding risk
The Red Earth Cree Nation, with funding from ISC, is conducting flood plain mapping of the Rice and Carrot Rivers to assist in planning to reduce impact of flooding on the community.
Annual Emergency Management Forums bring together First Nations and tribal councils in Saskatchewan to gather information toward developing emergency management. This includes preparing all-hazard plans, sharing community experiences and best practices and networking to develop partnerships toward enhancing community capacity and resiliency. The forums are supported by ISC through funding to the forum organizer, the Prince Albert Grand Council.
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 to help the First Nations develop options for flood mitigation.
Structural mitigation projects to address flooding are also underway in these First Nations communities with investments from ISC:
- Dene Tha' First Nation
- feasibility and design for overland flooding mitigation for the Chateh community
- Piikani Nation
- upgrades to the culverts and roadways along Beaver Creek to mitigate road washout that would potentially lead to a sizeable part of the reserve being cut off from accessing that area
- berm reconstruction on Lizard Lake
- Tsuut'ina Nation
- culvert and drainage upgrades
- Siksika Nation
- South Camp lift station, east well development and Little Washington lagoon relocation
- Tallcree First Nation
- flood protection design and construction completed to provide flood protection for the North community
ISC has a comprehensive emergency management service agreement with the Province of Alberta. The agreement ensures the 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 has a Tripartite Memorandum on Emergency Management Services with the First Nations Leadership Council and the Province of British Columbia. During an emergency, such as flooding, Emergency Management British Columbia is the lead in supporting First Nations with their response activities.
The following projects have been completed or are in progress to address potential flooding issues:
- 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 environmental and installation monitoring stage
- 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 environmental and installation 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
- design and construction of long-term erosion mitigation works at bank failure locations along the main access road to Nooaitch IR 1 is in progress
- Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council
- a coastal vulnerability study project is in progress to develop models for 30 coastal communities around Vancouver Island to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge and its effects on infrastructure for communities on the West Coast of Vancouver Island
- as of May 2019, 6 communities have been completed:
- Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations
- Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k:tles7et'h' First Nations
- a draft report completed in 2019 identified areas vulnerable to tsunami and storm event flooding in Toquaht, Ucluelet First Nation, Hupacasath, Huu-ay-aht, Tseshaht, and Uchucklesaht. Planned investigations for 2019 to 2020 include Ditidaht, Nuchatlaht, Pacheedaht First Nation, T'Sou-ke First Nation, Beecher Bay, Esquimalt, and Songhees Nation
- a north coastal vulnerability study is in progress to develop models for 30 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 May 2019, 9 communities have been completed:
- Old Massett Village Council
- Haisla Nation
- Nisga'a Village of Gingolx
- Nisga'a Village of Laxgalts'ap
- Lax Kwa'laams
- Metlakatla First Nation
- Gitxaala Nation
- a draft report completed in 2019 identified areas vulnerable to tsunami and storm event flooding in:
- Nuxalk Nation
- Wuikinuxv Nation
- Dzawada'enuxw First Nation
- planned investigations for 2019 to 2020 include:
- Gwawaenuk Tribe
- Namgis First Nation
- Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis
- Mamalilikulla First Nation
- 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. Construction is planned to start in fiscal year 2020 to 2021
- reconstruction of a failed dike section completed in 2018. Construction of river training works completed in 2019
- coastal flood protection investigations of the community are in progress
- Tsawout First Nation
- coastal erosion protection works of existing infrastructure. Construction was completed in 2019
- Metlakatla First Nation
- coastal erosion protection works for existing infrastructure. Phase 1 construction started in 2018-2019 and phase 2 construction is planned to start in 2019 to 2020
- Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation
- construction of a debris flow berm for the protection of existing infrastructure
- Peters First Nation
- initiating assessment and design of flood protection upgrades for existing homes, as well as identifying upgrades to address climate change predictions identified for the overall river valley. Design was funded in 2018 and construction is in progress in 2019
- Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxw'mis
- investigations of coastal erosion works to protect existing homes are in progress
- Sto:lo Nation and Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance
- in fiscal year 2018 to 2019, funded the creation of a secretariat 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
- started design in 2018 for community flood protection works. Construction is planned to start in fiscal year 2019 to 2020
- 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
- ongoing sediment removal program to maintain flow capacity of the river system through the community
- flood protection investigations of the Capilano River system within the community is in progress
- K'όmoks First Nation
- started design for coastal erosion works in 2018. Project is in progress
- flood protection investigations to update design levels with recent monitoring information and potential climate change impacts is in progress
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 Yukon Region 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
In September 2016, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon announced a seven-year bilateral agreement to provide emergency management services to White River First Nation, Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation.