The 1983 Emergency Plans Act was repealed in 2002 and substituted with the Emergency Management Act (EMA). The EMA required every municipality to develop and implement an Emergency Management program. The Emergency Management program was to consist of training programs for municipal employees as well as public education to increase public safety and emergency preparedness.
On June 30, 2006 the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) replaced the EMA. The new Act's purpose was to address the gaps in Ontario's emergency management legislation that became apparent through reviews of the province's response to the 2003 SARS and power outage emergencies. As a result, the previous definition of an emergency:
"a situation caused by the forces of nature, an accident, an intentional act or otherwise that constitutes a danger of major proportions to life or property"
was altered under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to include dangers caused by disease or health risks. Now an emergency is defined as:
"a situation or impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise"
The EMPCA provides emergency powers to the Premier of Ontario and the Lieutenant Governor in Council, in order for the provincial government to have the necessary power to react quickly to an emergency in Ontario.
Included in the government's abilities during an emergency are:
- Evacuating and controlling travel to or from a specified area.
- Fixing prices to prevent price inflation.
- Authorizing people to perform duties they would not otherwise be permitted to engage in.
- Closing private and public places to limit access.
- Disposing of environmental or animal waste.
Emergency orders are effective as of when they are given. Orders remain effective for 14 days and may be renewed for an additional 14 day period. If a longer period must be declared, extensions are only permissible if approved by the Assembly. Following the termination of the state of emergency, the Premier is required to report to the Assembly within 120 days. The report must include an explanation as to how the met the established criteria for emergency declarations.
As a safeguard to residents of Ontario, the EMCPA has strict guidelines to ensure that the provincial government is responsible for its actions and includes a test for determining whether a state of emergency should be declared.
While the Act does not require people to assist in emergency operations, it does make provisions to compensate those individuals who provide assistance during the emergency. In addition to this, job protection provisions have been addressed through amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act as well as the Employment Standards Act.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act now ensures that people who assist in connection with a declared emergency are considered "workers" and are eligible for benefits if they become injured or ill as a result of their assistance. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act a "worker" now includes:
- A person summoned to assist in controlling or extinguishing a fire by an authority empowered to do so.
- A person who assists in a search and rescue operation at the request of an under the direction of a member of the Ontario Provincial Police
- A person who assists in connection with an emergency that has been declared by the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Premier under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act or by the head of council of a municipality under section 4 of that Act.
In addition to this, the Act defines an employer as:
- An authority who summons a person to assist in controlling or extinguishing a fire
- The Crown shall be deemed to be the employer of a person who assists in a search and rescue operation at the request of and under the direction of a member of the Ontario Provincial Police.
- The Crown shall be deemed to be the employer of a person who assists in connection with an emergency declared by the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Premier
- The municipality shall be deemed to be the employer of a person who assists in connection with an emergency declared by the head of the municipal council
Bill 56 also makes amendments to the Employment Standards Act in order to make provisions for the 2006Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. As a result, the Employment Standards Act now states that:
- An employee is entitled to leave without pay if that employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position because of an emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act
- An employee is entitled to leave without pay if an emergency order applies to him or her
- An employee is entitled to leave without pay if he or she is needed to provide care or assistance to a relative or other individual that is recognized in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act .
In order for an individual to be entitled to this leave, a state of emergency must be declared and orders given that apply to the individual. The individual must inform their employer as soon as possible after beginning the leave and may have to provide the employer with evidence that the individual is entitled to leave, provided that the request for evidence is reasonable given the circumstances. An individual's entitlement to leave without pay ends with the termination of the emergency, but can be extended if the state of emergency order is extended. The Employment Standards Act also makes provisions for periods of leave that fall under retroactive orders.
Another important amendment that appears in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act concerns penalizing corporations and individuals that fail to comply or interfere with emergency orders. Offending corporations face a maximum fine of $10,000,000 while individuals could be charged up to $100,000.
Emergency Management Ontario
Under the new act, the title of Emergency Measures Ontario changed to Emergency Management Ontario to better reflect the decisive role that organizations serve. The title also provides the EMO Chief new authority in overseeing emergency planning in the province.
Amendment to the Powers of the Lieutenant Governor in Council
This amendment gives the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to temporarily suspend the operation of a limited number of legal provisions, if the temporary provision helps the province to provide assistance to victims or other members of the public in an emergency. These powers would only be invoked when there is an emergency as defined in the Emergency Readiness Act. Any suspension must also be temporary in nature, and the order must specify the dates on which the suspension begins and ends.