The Alberta provincial government has released draft flood maps meant to improve public safety, support emergency management, and help build safer and more resilient communities over the long term. Engagement opportunities are open for Albertans to provide feedback on new flood maps. Feedback will help ensure this work is technically sound. Share your thoughts on the draft flood maps by going to https://www.alberta.ca/flood-study-engagements.aspx by January 15, 2021.

The engagement for these studies is part of an initiative that developed 18 new provincial flood studies, covering over 1,500 kilometres of river through more than 60 municipalities and First Nations, including the five following First Nations:

New flood maps are available for many communities across Alberta. You do not need to be an engineer or flood expert to view or provide feedback. The Alberta provincial government will carefully consider all feedback received and will revise the draft reports and flood maps to address technical errors, as appropriate.

 

Information from: Government of Alberta, Ministry of Environment and Parks.

 

(Photo Credit: Joshua Woroniecki , Unsplash)

 

Prioritizing Indigenous rights and supporting innovative Indigenous practices are required to achieve a sustainable future and are crucial to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The race to meet SDG targets by Year 2030 is heavily focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs); however, globally, Indigenous communities are not responsible for these high levels of GHGs. Indigenous communities have been integral in the fight to reduce GHG emissions through innovative practices like traditional fire management. Yet, Indigenous peoples remain among the most affected by climate change and its impacts on a global scale, because of their interconnectedness with Mother Nature, the land, and all that it offers.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 calls for “ensuring the availability of sustainable water management and sanitation for all”; however, in Canada, for decades, many First Nation communities have gone without clean drinking water. Canada’s federal government has promised to ensure clean drinking water to all First Nation reserves by March 2021; however, there are now fears that this deadline will not be met.

Frustrated by government inaction in addressing the clean water crisis in their community, Lytton First Nation, (pop. 1,660 people) located in the Fraser Canyon, British Columbia, connected with RES’EAU-WaterNet, at the University of British Columbia. Together, they built the Lytton-Nickeyeah Creek Water Treatment facility in 2015, bringing clean water to the homes spread out over 56 reserves across 14,161 acres. The RES’EAU also worked in consultation with community members, leaders, and water operators at Lytton First Nation, to find a collaborative, creative, and affordable way to bring clean water to additional homes (some over 100 kms apart) that were too isolated to benefit from the larger treatment facility.

According to Alliance 2030, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the UN SDGs should be considered in concert with each other, if the 17 SDGs are to be met by 2030 and “achieve basic rights like clean water and equality for all.” The International Fund for Agricultural Development in their 2019 policy brief made several recommendations to advance collaborative policy solutions and to recognize Indigenous rights to land and intellectual property, in order to meet the SDGs.

Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is based on the premise of “leave no-one behind”. Canada’s 2018 Voluntary National Review acknowledged that Indigenous peoples and other “historically marginalized groups…still face unacceptable barriers”. Any attempt by countries to involve Indigenous communities as partners in sustainable development may be a step forward to meet the 2030 Agenda; however, when the basic rights to education and clean water are not guaranteed for Indigenous peoples, these calls for collaboration must be questioned. Indigenous peoples at the forefront of sustainable development innovations and climate change adaptation in Canada have declared a climate emergency. Realizing the SDG goals requires non-Indigenous governments to prioritize the protection of Indigenous rights if they also seek the collaboration of Indigenous peoples.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

(Image Credit: Carter Hildebrand, Unsplash)

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) is pleased to announce the launch of the Climate Change Adaptation Planning Toolkit for Indigenous Communities.

The objective of the Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Planning (ICCAP) Toolkit is to provide a suite of user-friendly tools, resources, and key considerations to support Indigenous individuals and communities interested in undertaking climate change adaptation planning. The intent is for the toolkit to be used by communities at all different stages of the adaptation planning process, including communities with little or no prior experience. The ICCAP Toolkit is currently available in English and will soon be available in French as well.
The ICCAP Toolkit was created by the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) in partnership with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s (CIRNAC) First Nations Adapt program. The ICCAP Toolkit consists of the following 4 key components:
    1. Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Guidance document
    2. Climate Change Adaptation Planning Guidebooks for Indigenous Communities
    3. Indigenous Languages Glossary Workbook
    4. ​Two Indigenous Language Glossaries

To learn more about the toolkit, click here.

How close is the world to meeting the challenge of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 on climate action? According to the UN report 2020 on SDGs “the world is way off track to meet the Paris Agreement target, signalling cataclysmic changes ahead.”

SDG 13 aims to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact” through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), while focusing on each member nation’s efforts to integrate the SDG 13 targets into their policies on climate change. The Paris Agreement builds upon the UNFCC, seeking “to limit global warming to 1.5C,” such that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions start to fall by 7.6% each year starting in 2020. SDG 13 is also considered alongside efforts to build more climate-resilient economies and societies as noted in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030.

GHG emissions declined worldwide at the onset of COVID-19; however, these emissions are expected to rise, as governments lift pandemic-related restrictions on people. In July 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the world had no more than 6 months left to avert a climate crisis and to prevent a surge of GHG emissions. Without full commitment from governments worldwide, there is little hope to reverse the climate crisis. It will also be worth considering how SDG 13 and other SDGs are implicated in sustainable development efforts among Indigenous communities in Canada.

By Leela Viswanathan

 

(Photo Credit: Denys Nevozhai)

Strong social networks play an important role in sustaining an Indigenous community’s resilience to climate change. The term social capital  is used to explain the ties that connect a community together through common identity, like kinship ties (i.e., bonding), and the ways in which one community builds a connection with another, beyond shared identity (i.e., bridging). Social capital is characterized by “levels of trust” and by how people are able to secure and transfer resources and benefits of social capital through their engagement with each other’s different social connections.

Social capital is enhanced by community resilience and is threatened by community vulnerabilities. However, communities experience both resilience and vulnerability to climate and environmental changes, simultaneously.  Vulnerability among Indigenous communities is created by processes that undermine Indigenous knowledge systems, that promote landscape fragmentation and land dispossession, and that threaten Indigenous rights and sovereignty, on top of the rapid pace of environmental change. In some Indigenous pastoral environments, as in arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya, gender, age, education, disability, are contributing factors to climate change vulnerability. Resilience is enhanced through connecting and learning from the land and exchanging knowledge about the land through social networks, especially in smaller communities.

As documented among Canada’s Northern Indigenous communities, when social networks are strong, there is less dependence on government policies and on infrastructure, to deal with the various “environmental stressors” associated with climate change. A criticism of Canadian policy is that it does not recognize differences between how Indigenous communities in Northern regions adapt to climate change compared to those communities located in Southern regions. Geographically isolated communities in Northern Canada depend heavily on social networks and traditional knowledge. Currently, social capital is not included in Canada’s overall policy approach to climate change adaptation. Government policy on climate change should incorporate factors like food security and resource distribution, which are key benefits of social networks.

Indigenous communities benefit from social capital through collective action to fight climate change. Collective action and is supported through acts of solidarity and practices of sharing and reciprocity. Sharing can include exchanges of food, offering shelter, different kinds of social support, and labour; it can also involve the sharing of risks. The impact of collective action varies in relation to power differences among group members or across different communities that work together. Collective action is affected by power relations in decision making, and so it may not always lead to community resilience. Ideally, collective action promotes flexibility, shared leadership, and exchanges of innovative adaptations to climate change.

How Indigenous communities draw from social networks to address the immediate impacts of climate change on their communities, and to adapt to climate change over time, needs further exploration. Ultimately, social capital is a crucial component to Indigenous climate change adaptation and it should be taken more seriously by climate change policy makers, in order to better understand and address, the vulnerability and the overall resilience of Indigenous communities to climate change.

By Leela Viswanathan

 

(Photo Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel)

According to the Centre for Climate Change and Energy Solutions “Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate.” An Indigenous community may improve its resilience to climate change by considering current and future risks associated with climate change, and by drawing from their shared values to influence legislation protecting the environment.

Indigenous communities are taking an active role to build their own climate change resilience through local and traditional knowledge systems and control over their resources. If these aspects are undermined by non-Indigenous and Western scientific knowledge and land management practices, Indigenous climate resilience is threatened.

The values of diverse Indigenous peoples contribute to strengthening Indigenous climate resilience worldwide by:

  • Sustaining a physical and spiritual connection with Mother Earth;
  • Upholding the sense that one’s personal and community’s well-being is connected to the well-being of the environment; and
  • Fostering Intergenerational equity: “the principle that every generation holds the Earth in common with members of the present generation and with other generations, past and future.”

In Aotearoa (New Zealand), the Māori principle that the well-being of humans and nature are connected, influenced the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017, which granted the Whanganu River, and the nearby forest, the same “rights, powers, and duties of a legal person.” Many Indigenous communities, inspired by this legislation, are trying to enact similar laws in their own jurisdictions, and contribute to their own climate resilience.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

Planning for climate change in Canadian municipalities can include different approaches undertaken by city governments to manage natural resources, land uses, transportation, infrastructure, and city services in order to mitigate, or adapt to, climate change. These approaches may also involve diverse members of the public in decision making processes.

An official plan (or general, community, or master plan), is a formal document that helps a city or community to outline a vision, and key objectives for various aspects of land use and development in their jurisdiction, and over a long period of time (sometimes 10 years or more). In Canada, cities of different sizes are required by provincial law to have an official plan, like in Ontario. Official plans can be amended from time to time too. In 2010, the City of Iqaluit (Nunavut) was the first municipality in Canada to incorporate climate change in its General Plan (see section 2.5). The extent to which municipalities include climate change goals in their official plans varies widely across Canada.

Some municipalities are seeking guidance to find innovative ways to address climate change through their official plans, and they have developed different kinds of partnerships to achieve their goals. For example, the Clean Air Partnership published a report based on their collaboration with approximately 30 municipalities in Ontario to seek ways to promote clean air initiatives and to address climate change through municipal official plans. In another example, the National Measures Report 2019, released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), highlights how 400 municipalities, members of the FCM’s Partners for Climate Change Protection (PCP) program, developed 420 projects across Canada to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the local level. These are projects, rather than plans, that show how city-operated facilities and services, as well as local businesses, homes, and transportation, are all vital to reducing GHGs in the atmosphere.

The Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), working on behalf of planners across Canada, offers various informational resources on climate change and planning. The CIP’s Policy on Climate Change Planning, encourages professional planners to incorporate climate change-informed planning into all aspects of planning for cities and regions in order to meet an ethical obligation to the planet. However, among the barriers that prevent planners from incorporating climate change priorities into planning practice are the lack of political support and of up-to-date information, for decision making and forecasting.

The Climate Alliance, a network of 1,800 European municipalities – large and small, urban and rural – has developed a partnership with Indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin to address climate change at the global scale and to emphasise the importance of sustainable forestry worldwide. Since Canadian municipalities are located on Indigenous lands, municipalities might consider assessing how their climate change priorities could align with the climate change priorities of the Indigenous communities whose lands they occupy. Such an effort may highlight shared or divergent priorities in fighting climate change, and the potential for communities’ resilience to climate change effects.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

Indigenous Local Knowledge (ILK) is a combined term that reflects Indigenous knowledge, based on cultural practices, and local knowledge, rooted in local contexts and experiences. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of the United Nations responsible for evaluating the “science of climate change,” has noted that ILK is crucial to enabling communities to adapt to climate change, and that ILK is also under threat worldwide.

As a vital resource for responding to climate change, ILK is threatened by:

  1. the speed of climate change impacts outpacing the incremental application of ILK.
  2. a combination of processes, including rapid urbanization, the expansion of formalized education, economic diversification, and the adoption of new technologies which shift the focus away from agriculture, and may ‘disrupt’ how ILK is traditionally passed from one generation to the next.
  3. how the acquisition of land at a large scale, to promote mass food production, can minimize local and small scale economies in favour of the global economy.

Embedding ILK practices into local institutions can help policy decision makers to understand climate change effects on Indigenous communities in diverse locations across the world, especially where there is no formal scientific data being collected. According to the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C (SR15), climate change experts have found that ILK can provide accurate baselines for environmental processes, such as global warming, changes to weather, water quality, and landscape degradation.

 

By Leela Viswanathan

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), with the support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), are looking for comments and ideas regarding current and future freshwater management challenges in Canada and the role that a new Canada Water Agency could play in maintaining Canada’s freshwater sources. The Canada Water Agency would “work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists and others to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean and well-managed.”

The groups of focus for the consultation period include non-governmental organizations, including watershed organizations, academic institutions, municipalities, industry stakeholders, Indigenous peoples, and youth.

Consultation is being conducted through PlaceSpeak, an online engagement platform. Individuals can provide feedback via a discussion page on PlaceSpeak or they can contact ECCC directly at ec.water-eau.ec@canada.ca. Through PlaceSpeak ECCC also plans on posting detailed discussion aids and specific questions in the future to gain a sense of direction Canadians would like to see the Canada Water Agency take. The link for the PlaceSpeak page can be found here: http://www.placespeak.com/CanadaWaterAgency.

This project is open from comments from May 13, 2020 – May 31, 2021.

As young people and the young-at-heart go back to school this fall, it is good to revisit how Indigenous land-based learning is a way to take action on climate change. The impact of COVID-19 on society has also shed light on the importance of outdoor education.

According to a report inspired by the work of the Misipawistik Pimatisiméskanaw land-based learning program in Misipawistik Cree Nation, Manitoba, “Indigenous land-based learning typically uses an Indigenized and environmentally-focused approach to education by first recognizing the deep, physical, mental, and spiritual connection to the land that is a part of Indigenous cultures.” Indigenous land-based education teaches environmental stewardship. Simply put, Indigenous environmental stewardship reflects all the ways that Indigenous peoples honour Mother Earth, including practices of conservation and sustainability, as well as showing a responsibility for one another, as human beings.

Indigenous scholars at the University of Guelph in Southwestern Ontario have been working together with several community agencies, including the Global Youth Network, the Grand River Métis Council, and the White Owl Native Ancestry Association, to establish the Wisahkotewinowak teaching garden at the university’s arboretum. The garden is a space for youth to learn from Indigenous Elders about seasonal medicinal and edible plants. Wisahkotewinowak, is an Ojibway word that means “the growth of new shoots after a fire.” Youth are also involved in a project that involves the Niisaachwan Anishinaabe Nation and that combines learning about manomin (wild rice), an important food source for Anishinaabe people, with learning about changes to the land brought on by human settlement along the Winnipeg River. The Manomin/Wild Rice Project offers opportunities for land-based learning and intergenerational cooperation that also characterizes Indigenous food sovereignty projects.

In another example, children and youth ranging from kindergarten to grade 8 at the Biitigong Nishnaabeg Elementary School, just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, are benefitting from learning about traditional knowledge and skills, like manomin harvesting, from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. The pilot project is run in partnership with Lakehead University, and has led members of all ages of the Biitigong community to learn about the benefits of land-based learning. Land-based practices characterizing Anishinaabe pedagogies, including those among communities governed by the Grand Council of Treaty #3 territories, offer insight into cultural practices, and practices that maintain a strong sense of identity among diverse Anishinaabe peoples.

The benefits of Indigenous-led education, including land-based learning, are also formally recognized, at the international scale, by the UNESCO. According to section B19 of the UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples, “effectively including indigenous peoples’ knowledge, holistic worldviews and cultures in the development of education policies, programmes, projects and practices and promoting their perspectives, would provide meaningful learning opportunities that are equally available, accessible, acceptable and appropriate for all indigenous peoples.”

There is an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and for their respective governments, to consider linking both educational policies and diverse practices that support Indigenous land-based education with climate change action.

 

By Leela Viswanathan