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Canadian Emergency Legislation Comparison Essay

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Canadian Emergency Legislation:
A Comparative Analysis Between the Canadian Emergency Management Framework and Federal, Provincial, Territorial Legislation

Wendy Hayko

May 15, 2007
Disaster and Emergency Management Practice 510
Instructor: Ron Kuban
Royal Roads University, Master Arts Disaster and Emergency Management Program

Introduction 3
A Look at the Numbers 3
In the Event of Emergency 4
Working Together 6
Citations 8
Appendix A – Legislative Definitions 10
Appendix B – In the Event of an Emergency 30

This paper compares Canada’s current Federal, Provincial and Territorial legislation and The Emergency Management Framework for Canada. Several variables were considered in this analysis. In particular, an understanding of the ability to work together and with varying government levels was to be determined. In addition to the legislation and framework document, consideration was given to relevant research on group interactions, including analysis of government department and level interactions, during emergencies. Although, the research considered was primarily conduced in the United States, due to the cultural similarities between US and Canadian citizens and government employees the research findings are considered to be strongly relevant. A large number of discrepancies and outright contradictions were found between the individual legislation for each province and territory. Additionally, there were significant areas of divergence between the federal and provincial/territorial legislation and between the framework and the legislation. However, when these differences are considered in conjunction with the sociological research on group interactions, the outlook for a cohesive emergency response between and among Canadian government is excellent.

A Look at the Numbers

Fourteen consolidated pieces of legislation and one framework document were compared. Within the set there are 143 definitions for 82 words, 135 of the definitions are unique. (Appendix A – Legislative Definitions) While the number of definitions seems large, the majority of them do not directly affect the process of disaster and emergency management, for example, there are four definitions each for “declaration of state of emergency” and “declaration of a state of local emergency” however, these definitions vary only in the referenced subsection of the act. Similarly, there are eight definitions for “Minister” again; the difference is not substantive, only the name for each minister is different. Surprisingly, however, there are eight different definitions for disaster and twelve for emergency. The only reason there are not more definitions of emergency is; there is no definition for emergency in the Federal legislation or in Quebec or Newfoundland’s legislation. How then, with this wide array of definitions for common elements between the legislation are the various governments to work together harmoniously? Leaving aside for a moment the exact definitions of emergency and disaster, let’s first take a look at the work they will do in an emergency or disaster situation.

In the Event of Emergency

Since it is during an actual cross jurisdictional emergency or disaster that the various levels and ministries of government will have to work together to accomplish immediate and high impact goals, the sections of the legislation specifically related to a disaster or emergency event occurrence which were considered. In particular, the following sections were considered: • Declaration of Emergency

o What the declaration must include
o The effective duration of the declaration
• Powers granted by the declaration
• Delegation of the powers
• Continuity of Governance
• Enforcement of the Act or Offence punishment
The biggest difference within the set of legislation is in the powers granted or not granted to the ministers when an emergency is declared. However, in all instances, sweeping powers are granted, even with the limitations placed on the ministers by a minority of provinces and territories, the ministers have the ability to become virtual dictators, sweeping aside civil rights and liberties during a declared emergency. (Appendix B – In the Event of an Emergency) Ten of the provinces and territories grant the legislative power to do anything they deem required to respond to and recover from the declared event, additionally, each of these specifies a number of specifically included actions which may be taken. Specific wordings include: “do all acts and implement all procedures” (British Columbia); “do everything necessary to prevent or limit loss of life and damage to property or the environment, including…” (Manitoba) and “Despite any other Act, when a stat of emergency has been declared to exist under section 6 or 7, the minister may do all things considered advisable for the purpose of dealing with the emergency…” (Yukon) The remaining provinces and territories chose to identify and grant specific powers when an emergency is declared. The federal legislation does not grant any additional powers, nor does it truly have declaration, rather it includes an identification of “concern.” Despite the broad powers granted in these acts, shockingly, only three of acts include specific sections regarding continuity of governance and one of these (Newfoundland) grants the power to suspend the legislature without limit on the duration of the suspension. Perhaps even more surprising though is the Yukon’s act which in addition to not discussing continuity of governance does not include any ability to delegate the powers granted to the minister when an emergency is declared.

Working Together

When first confronted with the bewildering array of definitions, differences in powers granted and methods of handling (or not handling) delegation and continuity, there is a strong tendency to despair of these government levels ever being able to work effectively together during a time of crisis. Fortunately, there is research which gives hope. Quarantelli (1985) states “planning can be good, only if (1) planners take into consideration a very broad range of activities.” Canadian legislation definitely displays consideration of quite a broad range of activities. Unfortunately, this is balanced by the observation that one of the problem areas for organizational authority is “clashes over organizational domains between established and emergent groups.” (Quarantelli 1985) Given the wide variety of definitions for even basic terms and broad powers granted many (but not all) of the ministers, organizational domain clashes are easy to envision. Watchendorf (2004) closely examines how government agencies worked together in response and recovery to the 9/11 incident. Her findings clearly demonstrate that despite organizational domain and other issues, government agencies in particular were able to expand, extend or form emergent groups in order to accomplish the necessary tasks to complete their objectives. In Canada, we have had some experience with large numbers of government agencies converging at an emergency, for instance, when responding to a massive fire there were "seven departments of local government, 10 agencies of the regional government, 25 entities from the provincial government and 27 organizations from the federal government." (Quarantelli 1997) As these agencies are governed by differing legislation, many of the conflict and discrepancies inherent in the set of legislation were in play, however, the incident was still resolved. By considering the framework and the set of legislation with the sociological research on organizational behaviour in disaster situations we can see that despite the initial impression of conflict Canadian government ministries will be able to work together effectively. Citations

1. “Improvising 9/11: Organizational Improvisation Following The World Trade Center Disaster” Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware Website, [Accessed: March 16, 2007]

2. Quarantelli, E. L. (Enrico Louis), 1979 “Studies in disaster response and planning” Publication info: [Newark, Delaware] : Disaster Reserch Center, University of Delaware, 1979. Electronic access:

3. Quarantelli 1985 “Organizational Behavior In Disasters And Implications For Disaster Planning” Disaster Research Center URI:

4. Quarantelli, E. L. (Enrico Louis), 1979 “Studies in disaster response and planning” Publication info: [Newark, Delaware] : Disaster Reserch Center, University of Delaware, 1979. Electronic access:

5. Canadian Federal Legislation, “Emergency Preparedness Act R.S., 1985, c. 6 (4th Supp.) [1988, c. 11, assented to 27th April, 1988]” Canadian Legal Information Institute Webpage

6. “An Emergency Management Framework for Canada” [Accessed: May 1, 2007]

7. Quarantelli 1997 “Ten Criteria For Evaluating the Management of Community Disasters” Disaster Research Center

8. British Columbia Legislation from

9. Consolidated Provincial and Territorial Legislation from Canadian Legal Information Institute Webpage



New Brunswick:


Northwest Territories:

Nova Scotia:







Appendix A – Legislative Definitions

|Prov / Terr |Word |Definition | |Newfoundland |advisory committee |the emergency measures advisory committee appointed under section 5; | | |advisory committee Count |1 | |Newfoundland |assistance agreement |the International Emergency Management Assistance Memorandum of Understanding dated July 18, 2002 and | | | |executed among governors of the New England states of the United States of America and premiers of | | | |Quebec and the Atlantic provinces of Canada ; | | |assistance agreement Count |1 | |New Brunswick |assisting force |anyone sent by another jurisdiction to assist the Province during a state of emergency when such | | | |assistance has been requested by the Minister under an agreement authorized by paragraph 6(1)(a); | | |assisting force Count |1 | |Alberta |Cabinet Committee |the committee of the Executive Council appointed under section 4; | | |Cabinet Committee Count |1 | |Saskatchewan |chief of emergency management |the chief of emergency management designated pursuant to section 3; | | |chief of emergency management Count |1 | |Newfoundland |civil disaster |a real or anticipated occurrence, other than a war emergency, which endangers or is likely to endanger | | | |the safety, welfare and well-being of some or all of the civil population of the province and includes | | | |disease, pestilence, fire, flood, tempest or other calamity not directly attributable to enemy attack, | | | |sabotage or other hostile action; | | |civil disaster Count |1 | |Yukon |civil emergency plan |a plan approved by the Commissioner in Executive Council pursuant to section 2 for dealing with any | | | |emergency; | | |civil emergency plan Count |1 | |Quebec |civil protection authorities |local municipalities, authorities to which local municipalities have delegated their responsibility for | | | |civil protection and authorities which by law are responsible for civil protection in all or part of | | | |their territory ; and | | |civil protection authorities Count |1 | |Northwest Territories |community emergency measures agency |a community emergency measures agency established under paragraph 7(1)(b); | |Nunavut |community emergency measures agency |a community emergency measures agency established under paragraph 7(1)(b); | | |community emergency measures agency Count |2 | |Manitoba |co-ordinator |the Executive Co-ordinator of the Emergency Measures Organization; | | |co-ordinator Count |1 | |Newfoundland |council |the council of a municipality; | | |council Count |1 | |Framework |Critical infrastructure |essential underlying systems and facilities upon which our standard of life relies. | |  |Critical infrastructure Count |1 | |Alberta |declaration of a state of emergency |an order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council under section 18; | |British Columbia |declaration of a state of emergency |a declaration of the minister or the Lieutenant Governor in Council under section 9 (1); | |Northwest Territories |declaration of a state of emergency |an order made under subsection 11(1); | |Nunavut |declaration of a state of emergency |an order made under subsection 11(1); | | |declaration of a state of emergency Count |4 | |Alberta |declaration of a state of local emergency |a resolution or order of a local authority under section 21; | |British Columbia |declaration of a state of local emergency |a declaration of a local authority or the head of a local authority under section 12 (1); | |Northwest Territories |declaration of a state of local emergency |a resolution made under subsection 14(1); | |Nunavut |declaration of a state of local emergency |a resolution made under subsection 14(1); | | |declaration of a state of local emergency Count |4 | |Manitoba |department |a department of the government of Manitoba and includes a Crown agency, board or commission established | | | |by the government of Manitoba; | |Saskatchewan |department |the department over which the minister presides; | | |department Count |2 | |Alberta |Deputy Minister |the deputy minister of the Minister; | |Newfoundland |deputy minister |the Deputy Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs or other deputy minister of the Crown whom the | | | |Lieutenant-Governor in Council may designate for the administration of this Act; | | |Deputy Minister Count |2 | |British Columbia |director |the person appointed under section 2 (3) as the director of the Provincial Emergency Program; | |New Brunswick |Director |the Director and Deputy Director of the Emergency Measures Organization; | |PEI |Director |the Director of the Emergency Measures Organization; | | |director Count |3 | |Alberta |disaster |an event that results in serious harm to the safety, health or welfare of people or in widespread damage| | | |to property; | |British Columbia |disaster |a calamity that (a) is caused by accident, fire, explosion or technical failure or by the forces of | | | |nature, and (b) has resulted in serious harm to the health, safety or welfare of people, or in | | | |widespread damage to property; | |Framework |Disaster |essentially a social phenomenon that results when a hazard intersects with a vulnerable community in a | | | |way that exceeds or overwhelms the community’s ability to cope and may cause serious harm to the safety,| | | |health, welfare, property or environment of people; may be triggered by a naturally occurring phenomenon| | | |which has its origins within the geophysical or biological environment or by human action or error, | | | |whether malicious or unintentional, including technological failures, accidents and terrorist acts. | |Manitoba |disaster |a calamity, however caused, which has resulted in or may result in (a) the loss of life; or (b) serious | | | |harm or damage to the safety, health or welfare of people; or (c) wide-spread damage to property or the | | | |environment; | |New Brunswick |disaster |any real or anticipated occurrence such as disease, pestilence, fire, flood, tempest, explosion, enemy | | | |attack or sabotage, which endangers property, the environment or the health, safety or welfare of the ...

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