Since 2013, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island (MCPEI) has supported the communities of Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations in preparing and adapting to climate change impacts.

Recent studies have shown that climate change is contributing to sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and increased storm surges on Prince Edward Island, putting communities such as Lennox Island at risk. Coastal residences, critical community infrastructure, sacred grounds, and medicinal plant sites are all under threat from climate change and we needed to prepare for these challenges.

Having the community identify their priorities and concerns has been integral to the success of this project. We hosted workshops with Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations to identify and prioritize key climate risks to the community. Issues related to emergency response and human health, vulnerability of infrastructure, sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and vulnerability of traditional fishing and hunting areas were identified as key concerns by the community. “Climate change adaptation and the protection of our home, Lennox Island, is one of the most pressing challenges we face today” stated Chief Darlene Bernard of Lennox Island First Nation. “We appreciate the partnerships that have formed to help us achieve that goal.”

We also partnered with the University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Land and Simon Fraser University’s Spatial Interface Research Lab on the Coastal Impact Visualization Environment (CLIVE). CLIVE combines historical erosion data, model projections of sea-level rise, aerial imagery, and high-resolution digital elevation data to draw map out coastal erosion and future sea-level rise scenarios. By using 3D game engine technology, CLIVE is able to communicate climate change information to community members that is visual and easy to understand.

We are planning future activities that will include continued community consultations, development of an archeological climate change risk assessment tool, and training on how to operate UAVs for community members. Our project will culminate in the development of an adaptation plan that will help our communities improve their resiliency to climate change.

Caption: Audience at Lennox Island (PEI) attending community workshop on climate change

 

Blog Post from: Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island

Since August 2019, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Climate Change and Clean Energy Directorate has partnered with the First Nations Health Authority, Fraser Basin Council, and Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council on supporting an Indigenous delegation to attend the Adaptation Canada 2020 conference in Vancouver on February 19-21, 2020. The conference brought experts and leaders from diverse sectors, regions, and jurisdictions to bring forth solutions to the most important global challenge of our time — how to build climate change resilience in our communities, ecosystems and economy.

Indigenous peoples have been adapting to environmental change for millennia and have a wealth of knowledge to share of how climate has been changing and ways we can adapt. As such, Fraser Basin Council and other partners strived to have a strong Indigenous representation at Adaptation Canada 2020 and encouraged First Nations, Inuit, and Metis groups to submit project abstracts. Some of the abstract themes included: raising awareness of climate impacts, addressing climate change inequalities, strengthening capacity building, showcasing adaptation solutions, and promoting ecological resilience in communities. The call for abstracts was met with a resounding response — over 30 Indigenous presenters were scheduled to present their projects, and over 90 Indigenous delegates attended the conference. This overwhelming response speaks to the growing network of Indigenous adaptation leaders from across Canada who are leading innovative climate change adaptation projects, including a number of youth-led initiatives.

One such example is a group of teenagers from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories who produced a 22-minute documentary on climate change. The documentary “Happening to us” aired in Chile in December 2019 at the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A few youth from the community had the opportunity to travel to Chile. Indigenous delegates attending the conference were fortunate to see a screening of the documentary.

Indigenous delegates were also invited to participate to a networking event one day prior to the beginning of the conference. The purpose of the gathering was to provide a space where Indigenous peoples could network with one another and learn more about what other participants are doing to address climate change in their respective communities. The conference also hosted an Indigenous gathering space at the conference venue. This space was available to Indigenous participants to gather, reflect, share, network, practice and celebrate their cultures and traditions throughout their time at the conference. Two Elders were on-site to provide council, support and general assistance during the conference.

At Kanaka Bar, preparing for climate change is seen as an important milestone towards the achievement of community’s vision of self-sufficiency.  It is being incorporated in everything that is being done by the community on a day to day basis.  The Traditional Territory of Kanaka Bar is located 14 kilometers south of Lytton, B.C., in the Fraser Canyon. Water plays a critical role in the health of the community. Kanaka Bar has five watersheds: Kwoiek Creek, Morneylun Creek, Nekliptum Creek, Siwash Creek and Four Barrel Creek, all of which support traditional food sources, wildlife and agricultural activities, provide drinking water to the community and hydroelectric power to BC Hydro’s grid.

Over the recent years, many changes have been observed throughout the Traditional Territory. Community members have noticed that wildlife is moving away from the community and travelling further up-mountain, salmon numbers are decreasing and are swimming deeper in the Fraser River in search of cooler temperatures and vegetation growth is changing. As well, consistent rainfall has been replaced by long periods of dry weather and unpredictable storms. These local observations are consistent with scientific predictions of how climate change is likely to affect the region. Although drought has not yet affected the community’s water resources, there is substantial concern that they may be threatened as climate change impacts intensify.

In response to these concerning changes within their Territory, Kanaka Bar has undertaken a Community Vulnerability Assessment to better understand how their environment may continue to change, and how these changes may impact key community values and areas of concern.

Understanding Kanaka Bar’s concerns and priorities was the first step in the Vulnerability Assessment process. Together with environmental professionals from Urban Systems, community members gathered at engagement events to ask questions, and express their concerns about climate change and how it would impact community life and well-being.

After priorities were identified, current and future effects of climate change on these areas were studied. Some anticipated changes that emerged from this research were warmer temperatures year-round; less precipitation in the summer but more in the fall, winter, and spring; less snow; more frequent and intense storms events; changes in water resources; continued stress on the salmon population; changes in the availability of traditional foods; and increased risk of forest fire.

Understanding the ways in which Kanaka Bar was vulnerable to climate change has allowed the community to take meaningful steps towards reducing their risks and becoming more resilient by developing an adaptation strategy. Kanaka Bar’s Adaptation Strategy supports their goal of self-sufficiency while increasing their resilience. It maps out short and long term adaptation actions in six priority areas: Water Resources, Forest Fires, Traditional Foods, Access Roads, Supporting Self-Sufficiency and Youth and Community Engagement and Education. These actions range from installing weather monitoring stations in the community, to expanding food production initiatives, to hosting annual workshops on climate change. Together they represent a “Made at Kanaka, by Kanaka for Kanaka” adaption plan that will benefit the community in a holistic way that goes far beyond coping with climate change.

To learn more about Kanaka Bar and the great strides they’re making towards climate resilience and self-sufficiency, visit their website.

Figure 1Kanaka Youth at Morneylun Water Gauging Station

 

Author: Kanaka Bar