Canadian Underwriter

Study Finds Lack of Fire Protection for First Nation Reserves

April 6, 2016   by April Canada

Studies often show that consumers may not have as much home insurance coverage as they may need, or that they think they have more than they actually do. Some, though, also have difficulty protecting their homes from fire damage for other reasons. This may be true to different extents across Canada, but one issue that is persistent regardless of what part of the country is being discussed is that First Nation reservations are particularly lacking in this type of coverage.

This revelation comes from a federal government study commissioned back in 2011 that only recently came to light via the Access to Information laws, according to a report from the Canadian Press. That study found that only about 56 percent of all First Nation reservations across Canada have decent protection against fire, and in most of those cases it was only because nearby cities and towns provide them with fire departments. The rest have “little to no” such protection, save for poorly trained and little-funded volunteer groups that are ill-equipped to handle actual fires.

AprilFire22Fires can be extremely dangerous for homes without proper protection.

What else was in the study?
In general, it was found that the rate of fires on First Nation reservations is 2.4 times greater than that of the rest of Canada, and that those living on reservations are 10 times more likely to die in a house fire, with kids most often being the victims of these tragic incidents, the report said. This is due in part to the fact that the above-mentioned volunteer fire fighting groups simply cannot handle many such incidents, but also because homes are often run down or do not conform to current building codes.

“We think there are far too many First Nations families living in homes that other Canadians wouldn’t be subject to,” Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Liberal indigenous affairs critic, told the news organization. “This is a goal for all of us and for all Canadians – they don’t think that First Nations people should be living in third-world conditions.”

For its part, though, the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada says that there are potential problems with how the report examined the adequacy of fire protection, the report said. This may be true for a number of reasons, but a Grand Chief for the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak tribe nonetheless characterized the conditions First Nations people often face as “appalling.”

Where is this problem most severe?
The study found that reservations and other First Nation sites in British Columbia and Manitoba were the most likely to have little or no such fire protection, the report said. On the other hand, those in Atlantic Canada tended to be the most likely to have good service.

This is an issue that many in the insurance industry may do well to closely monitor and work with clients wherever possible to ensure they have adequate protection against fire – in addition to other types of coverage to better insulate them from risk.

“These statistics are upsetting but not surprising,” added Lucie Lee Frappier, Senior Underwriter at APRIL Canada. “One major challenge is that reserve land in Canada is community owned and under the administration of the band council. As a result, insurers have typically arranged with a band’s housing department to cover all of a reserves homes. The homes are also often far from a fire hydrant or a fire station and could lack a Fire or Police response as they may not have jurisdiction and the insurance industry standard to rate a building’s insurability. It would be great for brokers to get involved with these communities to educate and inform about the hazards and risks. There are some quick opportunities available but some challenges will take a combined and longer term approach with the specific Council`s involved.”

Information about APRIL Canada:
APRIL Canada is an independent MGA backed by worldwide expertise in providing innovative insurance solutions for your hard to place insurance risks. True to its values and commitments, APRIL strives to give meaning to the customer relationship. Providing the best solution for an insured is accomplished with team work between the Broker and underwriter. A relationship built on trust enables us to find the right coverage.

APRIL Canada has more than 130 employees, 4 offices Canada Wide, 45,000 Policy Holders and 2,500 Broker Partners. Choosing APRIL means high quality advice and excellent service.

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