B.C. disaster response outdated and inaccessible for evacuees: ombudsperson report

B.C. disaster response outdated and inaccessible for evacuees: ombudsperson report
Ombudsperson Jay Chalke releases a report during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., on April 6, 2017.

A report from British Columbia’s ombudsperson says emergency support programs for those forced from their homes during disasters are outdated, under-resourced, inaccessible and poorly communicated.

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s report on the government’s response to wildfires and severe flooding in 2021 analyzed the fairness in delivering assistance programs, and says there is unclear and confusing communication about programs, unreasonable delays in providing support and a lack of flexibility over how supports are delivered.

Chalke says the process does not take into account the distinct needs of Indigenous evacuees, elderly people or those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

His report makes 20 recommendations for the government, including ensuring reception centres are accessible, and supports are responsive to the needs of all evacuees.

Chalke says B.C.’s Emergency Management Ministry has accepted and committed to implement all of the recommendations.

The report comes as the New Democrat government introduced new disaster management legislation, which Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says will deliver a modernized emergency management approach that is aligned with international best practices to ensure communities are safer and more resilient.

She said the legislation looks to update what constitutes an emergency to reflect the current realities and risks, while it provides improved tools for response and recovery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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