The federal government is setting aside $82 million over three years to supplement a fund for humanitarian groups responding to weather-related disasters.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the government has been relying on the work of non-governmental organizations that provide humanitarian aid in weather-related emergencies.
The government says the additional $82 million will go to help organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St. John Ambulance recruit and train staff, purchase supplies and cover other operational needs.
The fund was established during the pandemic for non-governmental organizations involved in Canadian response efforts.
“It is a stark reminder that the frequency and severity of weather-related disasters are increasing every year,” Blair said. “The humanitarian organizations that are here today play a key role in that response.”
It also reflects a change in the way non-governmental humanitarian organizations operate in Canada, Canadian Red Cross President and CEO Conrad Sauvé said.
“When I look back a decade ago, the work of the Canadian Red Cross to respond to large-scale disasters and emergencies was largely done abroad,” he said.
“The big events in Canada were seen as the exception…Then things changed quickly.”
Sauvé said the vast majority of Canadian Red Cross operations are now domestic: responding to floods, fires and other disasters from coast to coast.
In recent months, the Red Cross has been asked to administer programs that provide cash payments to Nova Scotians and Prince Edward Islanders affected by forest fires and post tropical storm fiona.
Sauvé said his organization is open to these types of requests for assistance, which began with the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires.
Blair said this year has already been the worst for wildfires in Canadian recorded history. Approximately 900 fires are burning now and an area roughly the size of Newfoundland has been burned so far this year.
Other countries, such as Germany, maintain federal volunteer agencies to assist in disaster response.
Blair did not rule out creating a similar programme, but said organizations eligible for this funding may be better suited to fill that role.
“We are looking at what everyone is doing in response because we have seen a global increase in the frequency and severity of these events,” he said.
“But it’s also important, I think, to look very carefully at the Canadian context and look at the organizations that already exist in this country, and how we can build capacity within them.”