Build Back Better, Together with Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil

Video presentation by Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, summary written by Cindy Marven

On January 12, 2023, Preparing Our Home hosted an online sharing circle, led by Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, to provide insight into the formation of the Emergency Planning Secretariat (EPS), a non-political organization created to coordinate Mainland Coast Salish-led all-hazards disaster management, and the Indigenous-led Build Back Better, Together (BBBT) initiative launched after the devastating atmospheric Lower Mainland flood events in November, 2021.

In this video, Tribal Chief McNeil shares the rationale for forming the EPS and for developing the Disaster Resilience Regional Action Plan, Hílekw Sq’eq’o (‘get ready, together’ in Hal’qeméylem, a Coast Salish dialect) involving 31 Mainland Coast Salish communities and discusses the Build Back Better, Together Collaborative (BBBT).

The Emergency Planning Secretariat (EPS)

The EPS and Hílekw Sq’eq’o are founded on, and informed by, the four priorities outlined in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, ISO 31000 (Risk Management), the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the BC Government’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Mainland Coast Salish community values, and is aligned with the ‘whole of society’ approach to rightsholder and stakeholder engagement embedded in the Sendai Framework. In developing the EPS and Hílekw Sq’eq’o, Mainland Coast Salish communities ensure that their rights and values are infused in an effective emergency and disaster management plan for their communities.

When we walk into a room, we are bringing our title with us, our rights with us, our thousands and thousands of years of history with us, our culture, our tradition, our spirituality. We bring everything with us all the time, because we can’t let it go, it’s too important, we have too many obligations to our future generations, to put it down at any time (Tribal Chief McNeil – 8:35).

…I know that a lot of you are like us, where this is so much more than human interests. We are really interested in that broad ecological footprint, the broad natural landscape. Not only was it a lack of recognition of our rights, it was a lack of recognition of the need to do things as resilience as possible, as nature-based as possible ( Tribal Chief McNeil – 10:50).

The EPS and Hílekw Sq’eq’o were formed in recognition of the need to coordinate emergency and disaster management across the 31 Mainland Coast Salish communities (representing about 13,000 people) and to provide an efficient mechanism for interacting and communicating with emergency and disaster management efforts of other levels of government, locally, provincially, and federally, and to proactively identify risks and strategically plan and prepare for them.

Regarding Hílekw Sq’eq’o:

This is our plan. We’re drafting the plan for our own purposes, for our own needs, that reflects who we are. Following Sendai, of course, and living through Lytton and November 2021. We realized that the whole ESS side of EM here in BC is completely inadequate. It is not developed or maintained in a way that has folks, an entire town, displaced for more than a year or more (Tribal Chief McNeil – 19:07).

A second key element underlying the formation of the EPS is to build skills and competencies among Mainland Coast Salish people so they are able to perform vital functions and roles in emergency and disaster management.

Although we all learn differently, everyone has the ability to learn, the skills and competencies. It’s how we get there, that changes, that is unique to their needs. So because of that, we are building what we call a Tactile Capacity Development Plan (Tribal Chief McNeil – 22:28).

…It’s got to be tactile, it’s got to be relevant to them. It’s got to be hands on, real world experiences. So we are bridging the training with mock exercises, real-world exercises so you put the skills to use on a regular basis so you don’t forget them (Tribal Chief McNeil- 23:02).

The Build Back Better, Together Collaborative

Following the November 2021 Lower Mainland floods, the Indigenous-led Build Back Better, Together Collaborative (BBBTC) was formed because neither the BC government nor federal government had a policy or funding methodology for building back better.

I really appreciate that part of Sendai, that everyone is part of the solution scenario. We continue to promote that. You can’t lose sight of sustainable communities and economies. That’s ours, the local towns, the cities, and whatnot. That piece is important (Tribal Chief McNeil – 28:38).

BBBTC includes the Emergency Planning Secretariat, Stó:lō Tribal Council, UBC Coastal Adaptation Lab, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Ebbwater Consulting, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Resilient Waters Project, West Coast Environmental Law, and Kerr Wood Leidal. The BBBTC follows a similar Indigenous values- and rights-infused framework to the EPS (see the BBBTC report on Flood Recovery, Resilience and Reconciliation).

…unless we better respond to the climate crisis protecting infrastructure in a resilient, nature-based fashion, you know, if we get all of those things in place, I feel really strongly that not only will it reduce risk to any infrastructure capital, but it will reduce risk, and hazard, and harm to us as well (Tribal Chief McNeil – 35:03).


The Emergency Planning Secretariat (EPS) is a non-political organization that supports 31 communities in British Columbia in improving emergency planning and preparedness at the local and regional levels. To learn more visit:

Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil is Stó:lō and a member of Seabird Island Band. He has extensive experience working to advance First Nations languages and education, collaborating with First Nations across the country, and developing agreements and partnerships with government, in addition to managing a First Nation construction company that employs up to 70 Indigenous men and women, with expertise in Occupational Health and Safety, safety audits, human resources management, operations and budgeting in civil construction and pipeline industries.

Tribal Chief McNeil works closely with the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC) for the Trans Mountain Expansion and Existing Pipeline, including as a member of several leadership and sub-committees, driving changes to improve practices of regulators to better align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to advance reconciliation.


Cindy Marven coordinates the Coast and Ocean Risk Communication Community of Practice initiated in 2017 by the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction, and Response Network and supported since 2022 by the Ocean Frontiers Institute – Future Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures. She holds a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Victoria and for the past two decades, her work has centred around hazard and risk in marine and coastal environments. She is a copy editor for HazNet.