Council adopts Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
Banff Town Council adopted an interim Indigenous land acknowledgement to be spoken at the commencement of all Town of Banff council meetings, and included in council and committee agenda packages. The interim message will be used until a consultation process with people from regional Indigenous communities has been completed and council adopts a Framework for Engaging with Indigenous Communities, which will include a schedule of appropriate land acknowledgements for various occasions.
Land acknowledgements are a part in moving forward on a path to reconciliation and are influenced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. The spirit of acknowledging the historic treaties occupied by Indigenous Peoples is consistent with Call to Action #47, where all levels of government are called upon to renounce concepts used to justify European sovereignty over indigenous peoples and lands.
Land acknowledgements are to be used to educate the public on the significance of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their territories and recognizing the history and presence of Indigenous Peoples on the lands that the town of Banff is located within and on.
Adopting and practicing a land acknowledgment is a small but important step that the Town of Banff can take in rebuilding relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and honouring the original agreement to live in peace, friendship, and respect. Dedicating time to reflect on the truth about Canada’s colonial history and how to contribute to reconciliation offers a regular reminder that we are all accountable to these relationships as Treaty people.
Interim acknowledgement for council meetings:
In the spirit of respect and reciprocity, we acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Tsuut’ina First Nation, Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and all Indigenous people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. The Bow Valley has also long been important to the Ktunaxa and Secwépemc First Nations who traditionally occupied lands and used the watersheds along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
Council is committed to improving the Town’s understanding of these Nations’ interests and we recognize the land as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we reside on.
The first reading of the acknowledgement was read at this council meeting by Coun. Kaylee Ram.
River Level and Flood Mitigation Update
Council received an update on the Town’s monitoring of river levels and flood mitigation plans.
On Sunday, June 12, provincial river forecasters contacted Banff administration with a prediction of heavy rain affecting a high river flow rate, comparable to that seen during the 2013 flood. As a result, the Town’s Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) was activated, and firefighters and Operations crews were mobilized to deploy flood prevention measures in low-lying areas.
Residences on Birch Avenue at the Recreation Grounds – where flood mapping indicates the lowest elevation and greatest flood risk – were provided door-to-door notification about the changing situation. Notification identified emergency preparation measures and information resources.
The Town also sent notification messages to subscribers of its Emergency Alerts system (available for registration at Banff.ca/Alerts) and disseminated through the Town’s social media channels.
The Town’s response crews stockpiled sandbags in the Industrial District for potential deployment, as well as a stockpile on Birch Avenue at the housing complex. Sandbags were also deployed as a preventative measure at certain infrastructure in several locations in town.
A temporary dam system was deployed along the river on Birch Ave and around the perimeter of the housing complex. The dams, known under their brand name “Tiger Dams” are rolled out and then, if needed, filled with water to become flood-water barriers. The dams encircled the housing complex because the flood mapping shows the water flow risk through the Recreation Grounds, filling a pond at the east side of the sports field and along Cave Avenue.
Timeline: On Sunday, June 12, Environment Canada had issued a Heavy Rainfall Warning. On Monday, Alberta Environment and Parks (which operates the river clow monitoring website rivers.alberta.ca) issued a Flood Warning for the Bow River in Banff. Late Monday, the status was downgraded to Flood Watch and by afternoon on Tuesday, June 14, the alert was downgraded again to High Streamflow Advisory, due to lower than forecast rainfall in the region and on the greater-then-normal snowpack upstream.
Since 2013, the Town has undertaken a number of projects to enhance emergency response to flooding, such as the purchase of one-kilometre worth of the portable dams and a rapid sandbag-making device that can produce thousands of sandbags in a very short period of time with very little people power.
Within the Town’s flood plan, there are established trigger points to deploy certain tactics, based on the river level in town, and based on Alberta Environment’s Bow River flow rates. Some triggers generally include:
- At 175 m3/s cover manholes adjacent to river
- At 200 m3/s issue riverbank safety messaging
- At 230 m3/s close trails from Canoe Docks to Central Park, and Birch Ave to the YWCA
- At 300 m3/s close lower Bow Falls viewing platform and start deploying portable dam protection around Birch Housing if forecast calls for increased river flow and precipitation
As a reference point, the peak of the 2013 floods saw the Bow River in Banff reach approximately 440 m3/s. This week, the volume did not surpass the 175 m3/s rate, but due to potential for rapid change and flood warning, several of these measures were completed.
Banff’s emergency response teams continue to monitor river levels and data from Alberta River Forecasters, and will take appropriate actions when needed.
State of Ambulance Service in the Bow Valley
Council received a briefing on the state of ambulance service in the Bow Valley.
In the spring of 2017, Mineral Springs Hospital Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were absorbed by the newly formed Alberta Provincial EMS dispatch system. This system was intended to centralize dispatch and create a borderless EMS system that deployed the closest EMS resources, regardless of geographical or service area.
However, over the past few years, there has been continued strain on the health care system that has seen local EMS resources being deployed to other areas of the region with Calgary being the predominant dispatched site.
When local EMS are in the city dropping off a patient, the provincial dispatch system identifies them as an available resource and dispatches them to an emergency call in the city. This process can continue for many cycles and has the negative effect of our local ambulances spending a large portion or their entire shift in the city.
With municipalities, EMS and health care professionals raising concern over patient care and service delivery, the Alberta Health Minister announced the establishment of the Provincial EMS Advisory Committee on January 24, 2022. Its mandate is to examine issues such as system pressures that may cause service gaps, staffing issues, and hours of work. The review includes issues related to ground ambulance, air ambulance and dispatch.
The advisory committee and its sub-committees are scheduled to submit a final report with long-term recommendations in July 2022.
The local EMS provider based at the Mineral Springs Hospital has reported anecdotal improvement in allocation of resources. Recently, Alberta Health Services announced expanded days and hours of operation of the CT scan services at Canmore Hospital that will now operate 16 hours a day, seven days a week. This change will help keep local ambulance resources in the Bow Valley and out of the city thereby mitigating the dispatch options that keep them there.