About the Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Gathering 2018

About the Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Gathering (ICCAG)

On February 13th and 14th 2018, the ICCAG took place in Gatineau, Quebec. The event was attended by 34 First Nation Adapt community participants from across the country. The two-day gathering provided a platform for a national level dialogue on current project status and identifying better ways to communicate and share knowledge between First Nation Adapt participant communities. Six formal presentations were given by representatives from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. Numerous regional roundtable community building discussions took place and were audio and video recorded. The recordings were developed into a 25 minute documentary film.

Significant key themes emerged from the ICCAG 2018

During the regional roundtable discussions, participants discussed many topics of interest associated to climate change and its impacts. Seven themes emerged.

  1. Improving internal and external communications
  2. Protecting and preserving traditional knowledge and culture
  3. Increase capacity in First Nation communities
  4. Identifying current community infrastructure realities
  5. Community sustainability models
  6. Increase the use of technology in First Nation communities
  7. Increasing education and skills development opportunities

Theme #1 – Improving Internal and External Communications

The most prevalent theme was the need for the development of communication strategies and a collective interest by the participants to increase networking opportunities and share information and knowledge. Numerous recommendations where offered on how to increase local, regional and national First Nation climate change awareness. A focus on sharing ‘real time’ information an the suggestion of an ‘app’ or dedicated social media plan and external website specific to the First Nation Adapt program was also discussed. The communication theme also sparked discussion on ways to increase community engagement efforts. An emphasis on the establishment of a First Nation community-based climate change network or local First Nations-led chapter was a topic of great interest.

Communication barriers were also discussed more so on how to resolve known and existing barriers in First Nations communities in general. Of notable interest, participants observed and shared similar stories of communication breakdown at the political level and socio-economic issues that negatively impact their respective communities. Many participants agreed, that the need for dedicated communications plans that are inclusive of community-based initiatives such as climate change projects would enhance awareness at the community and regional levels.

Theme #2 – Protecting and Preserving Traditional Knowledge and Culture

The recognition and inclusion of traditional knowledge and ways of knowing relating to climate change record keeping and natural resource knowledge banks was another significant theme identified by participants. Participants acknowledged that the ancestral, cultural and spiritual connections and linkages to the land are highly valued and command the same respect as scientific findings. Further, participants identified Elders were the keys to the past, that they hold great influence in historic natural resource ecosystems and act as time keepers within their communities.

Community-based cultural education and traditional learning programs were identified as an integral part to the protection of land and preservation of natural resources. Another related topic was the creation of a regional based traditional knowledge exchange that could bring together youth and Elders from neighbouring communities to live on the land, listen to the stories of the land and encourage youth to explore ways they can preserve and protect their traditional territories and prevent further harmful impacts brought on by climate change.

Theme #3 – Increase Capacity in First Nations Communities

Interwoven in the discussions was the need for increased capacity on First Nations, specific to the First Nations Adapt program was the need for a dedicated climate change coordinator, technicians and specialists and emergency management personnel. Participants recognized that historically, there was many problems with recruiting and retention of qualified staff in First Nations. Attracting new talent in the technical fields is what many participants expressed as “difficult to achieve to say the very least”. Participants identified with having to hire outside consultants to conduct the work and that his hiring practice comes with its challenges, namely, it is not financially practical or feasible for long-term climate change projections.

An emphasis on finding a qualified community member(s) to lead climate change initiatives is preferred and that this investment in human capital would:

  • Improve community-based climate change project objectives.
  • Provide employment and skills development opportunities for a First Nation.
  • Increases First Nations service offerings to include climate change and environmental adaptation education programs and local service delivery projects.
  • Enhance communications and related awareness information to the community and act as a climate change advisory service for First Nation communities, organizations and traditional territories.

Theme #4 – Identifying Current Community Infrastructure Realities

Another predominant theme was the need for up-to-date infrastructure to meet the increasing demands on First Nations directly affected by climate change events. Vulnerability studies and infrastructure assessments were identified by many as a good starting point to understand the current realities and situation of their First Nation and traditional territories. Participants acknowledged that the lack of adequate funding to address existing infrastructure problems has caused great hardship and burden for many First Nations. Understanding the shared frustrations, participants focused on ways they have adapted to their situations and found meaning ways to move forward.

Another noteworthy point was a discussion relating to economic development, partnership exploration and infrastructure investment opportunities that could positively impact a First Nation community. Lastly, participants described a need for a dedicated space for their First Nation to position itself as a leader in climate change adaptation initiatives. This discussion resulted in multiple ideation sessions relating to the importance of a dedicated space, including securing First Nations talent and creating the tools necessary to create potential climate change inspired businesses in their communities.

Theme #5 – Community Sustainability Models

Participants heard the term ‘sustainable and sustainability’ throughout the two-day gathering. Presenters explained their projects related sustainability models that are current operating to varying degrees of success. However, participants acknowledged that in many cases projects that lose their funding are no longer sustainable and that it was “important to find economically viable ways to keep projects alive.”

An emphasis was placed on economic development as a great solution to this problem an that First Nations must also look outside the normal government funding channels and explore business development opportunities. Economic Development was identified as being critical to improving the quality of life and conditions in First Nations. Further, the incorporation of proven sustainable models was identified by participants as a best practice that could be used to fund small to mid-sized climate change projects.

Theme #6 – Increase the use of Technology in First Nations Communities

The predominant use of technology in First Nation climate change initiatives was recognized by participants as imperative to accurate data collection. Further, a related theme emerged in relation to First Nations acquiring technology and the skilled technicians to operate technology. Participants agreed that the more a community could engage its youth and get them involved in climate change technology and community-based climate change initiatives, the better.

Participants shared their thoughts on youth and community engagement with many expressing the opportunities for youth involvement being inspirational and motivational for both youth and project stakeholders. This led to a discussion on the creation of Indigenous youth technology summer camps and programs aimed at showcasing technology and introducing them to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines at an early age. Further, discussions on the challenges of using technology included the costs associated to technology, accessibility of technology and qualified technicians, permits, legalities and weather conditions.

Theme #7 – Increasing Education and Skills Development Opportunities

The topics of education and skills development were prevalent among the groups. The importance of having an academic institution or trades training facility in a First Nation or within close proximity t the First Nation that offers specialized programs in in-demand fields was important. Many of the participants acknowledged that a contributing factor to why young people leave their community is due to the lack of jobs. A participant explained, “lack of job opportunities in our First Nation is a major factor in young talent leaving home for urban centres for post-secondary education, employment opportunities and overall better quality of life.”

Participants see technology-based credentials and job creation as the key to the success of their communities. Participants are actively pursuing potential partnerships with local institutes, colleges and universities that offer certifications, diplomas and degrees in areas such as GIS, LiDAR, and other technologies. First Nation Adapt participants are also establishing partnerships with Canadian technology firms and collaborating on many fronts aimed at elevating the technical capabilities and capacity needs of their communities. Another related topic was the need for awareness and learning opportunities at the community level. Many participants felt that the reason why their community leadership and community membership are not invested in climate change is due to limited knowledge on the subject.

Map: Locations of First Nations Participants at the ICCAG 2018