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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)

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

On March 28, 2019, a webinar on Eco-Cultural Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation was presented by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (people of the Inlet). This webinar provides an introduction to the TWN Climate Change program, youth stories, and community climate resiliency planning.

We have received permission to share the recorded webinar on this website as it may contain valuable information and insights for other First Nations communities working on climate change projects in Canada.

Click on the image below or click here to start the webinar (length – 1:02:08).

(Note: You may be prompted to download Adobe Connect to watch the video – a link to the download will appear automatically).

Events

Description (from watershedsforum.ca website):

*Amid current global challenges, water and watershed security remain imperative and we are convinced that Watersheds 2020: Stepping stones to watershed governance is needed now more than ever before. For that reason, we have decided to “meet you where you are at” by creating a virtual gathering this Fall as we also work towards establishing a viable date in 2021 for our in-person forum.*

WHAT IS WATERSHEDS 2020?

Join us October 15-16, 2020 for a virtual forum that brings together a diverse community of water leaders in B.C.—including Indigenous Nations, watershed groups, local and provincial government staff, funders, and the network of practitioners and champions—to build and deepen connections, learn from one another, and explore opportunities for improved watershed decision-making and longer-term watershed security.

WHY WATERSHED GOVERNANCE? WHY NOW?

From record-breaking droughts and floods to conflicts over use and rights, British Columbia’s fresh water is facing increasing threats. Addressing current and looming freshwater challenges as well as changing realities requires new partnerships and innovative forms of collaborative governance to respond to the many social and ecological needs of our watersheds.

THE AGENDA

Watersheds 2020 is being shaped by the needs and priorities identified by the water community and offers a chance for deeper understanding of the emerging issues and the opportunities to create change.

This virtual event will offer a small and stimulating sampling of talks, panels, and interactive opportunities to set us up well for our in-person get together anticipated in 2021.

Our core program starting to come together! Below is a sneak peek at the Watersheds 2020 panels and talks.

  • Water and watershed security the emerging imperative
  • Stories from on-the-ground watershed governance projects
  • Indigenous-led water initiatives
  • UNDRIP, DRIPA, and Indigenous laws
  • Water ethics and cross-cultural values
  • Sustainable funding – lessons and future potential
  • Global to local innovators and possibilities
  • Stepping stones to watershed governance – tools and priorities to gain greater influence and strengthen collaborations

Stay tuned and save the dates of October 15-16, 2020! A program and registration link for the free virtual forum are coming soon!

If you want to help us continue to create an effective program shaped by the needs and priorities identified by the BC water community, please fill out the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/POLIS-Illumination-survey-2020.