Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have a return to oral question asked by the Member for Monfwi on September 27th, 2023, regarding fire management policies effect on Indigenous culture.
The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is in the process of gathering information from departments, community governments, and other jurisdictions on the actual costs to date. Anticipated projections of the evacuation and fire mitigation measures will be reported to the finance management board in the Standing Committee on Government Operations on a quarterly basis. Until this information is gathered, I cannot confidently provide an estimate at this time.
The cost of actions taken to protect communities and infrastructures during an emergency response is separate and distinct from the work that is done on a yearly basis to prevent and mitigate the risk of wildfires to protect communities or wildlife habitat from wildfires.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change, or ECC, works closely with communities on an ongoing basis to provide advice and recommendations on wildfire hazard assessments and risk mitigations, which can include firebreaks, FireSmarting, and other measures to help protect their communities from wildfires.
Officials from ECC recently worked with all 29 forested communities in the NWT to update their community wildfire protection plan and the department regularly provides advice on implementation of their plans, including local fuel breaks or firebreaks.
Fuel breaks are one of the many tools used in wildfire prevention, mitigation, and response. It is important to note that they are not intended to stop the direct spread of wildfire. Rather, fuel breaks are intended to slow fires and can also provide fire personnel a control line to safely initiate forms and then possibly to remove fuel between the community and the remaining fire, or the main fire.
It is also important to note that with many groups and organizations involved, this work needs to be planned and coordinated. Local emergency management and community protection is a responsibility of community governments and those costs should be included in the community budget. It is also important to engage with ECC to ensure that any fire prevention work is consistent with the community wild protection plan.
Community government funding is provided annually and may be used for fire protection. The NWT, under the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, supported by ECC, was successful in obtaining federal funding to create firebreaks in the NWT communities.
2023 was an unprecedented wildfire season in the NWT and many places across Canada. The NWT saw record temperatures, severe droughts, extreme wind events that resulted in extreme fire behaviour. This resulted in many aggressive fires that burnt deeper, hotter, faster than we have seen in the past and where we -- and were very challenged -- challenging to manage. I'm proud of all the dedicated experience and well-trained firefighters who worked so hard to protect our communities and critical infrastructure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.