Emergencies: Requirements under the Emergency Management Act and Regulations
By Jessica Fleming
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
AMSC Casual Legal Service Provider
Recent events may have drawn our attention to emergencies and the importance of both preparedness and the appropriate response. One important legal mechanism put in place to ensure that this is achieved is the Emergency Management Act and its accompanying regulations.
What a municipality must do to prepare for an emergency is largely dealt with in the Local Authority Emergency Management Regulation made under the Act. Amongst other things, municipalities are required to appoint an emergency management agency and an emergency advisory committee. Municipalities must also establish emergency plans which detail such things as assignment of responsibilities and plans for communication during an emergency. These plans must be reviewed by local and provincial emergency management agencies once per year. In order to be better prepared for an emergency, the regulation also calls for municipalities to identify possible emergency scenarios and identify and carry out certain responses or engage in regional exercises that utilize the devised emergency plan. Moreover, elected officials, directors of emergency management agencies, and employees responsible for the implementation of emergency plans may be required to complete courses.
In the event that an emergency materializes, the Emergency Management Act sets out how the roles are shared between provincial and local governments. The Lieutenant Governor in Council has the power to declare a state of emergency in the Province. Although limited in duration and subject to human rights legislation, the powers granted to the Minister, i.e.: the executive branch of government, in the event of an emergency are broad. Notably, the Minister is authorized to acquire property, enter buildings without a warrant or make any order that the Minister deems necessary to lessen the impact of the emergency.
Important for municipalities is that, first, the powers of the Minister include its ability to authorize or require a municipality to put into effect an emergency plan. Second, the Act carves out a sphere of autonomy for municipalities with respect to local emergencies. In particular, provided that it is neither cancelled by the Minister or related to an area already subject to a province wide state of emergency, a municipality’s declaration of a local state of emergency allows it to exercise the same powers as those available to the Minister.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.