Health Canada released the Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action report in February 2022. Drawing connections between climate change and health, the report explores, in detail, seven key risks of climate change affecting the health of Canadians. Chapter 2 focuses on the impact of these climate change risks on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.

The seven risks of climate change affecting the health of Indigenous peoples, as examined in the report, are:

  • Natural hazards
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Air quality
  • Food safety and security
  • Water quality, safety, and security
  • Infectious diseases
  • Health systems

When examining each risk, the report also provides examples of how Indigenous communities are addressing these risks through their communities’ own planning and climate mitigation efforts. In the coming months, the Indigenous Climate Hub Blog will draw from the report and explore each of these risks for their impacts on the health of Indigenous peoples.

According to the report, the limitations to the data, and therefore the prevalence of uncertainty regarding the connections between climate change and health, are associated with the “amount of existing evidence,” and the quality of that evidence. The intention of the Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate (2022) report is to facilitate the development of more “integrated knowledge” to enable federal, provincial, and local governments to “prepare for climate change.” How Indigenous governments benefit from this report will be worth considering as well.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Biegun Wschodni, Unsplash)

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) are crucial to fighting climate change and to mitigating losses in global biodiversity. Drawing from geospatial data, potential areas for IPCA designation cover approximately, “38 million km2 in 87 countries” around the world. Although IPCAs are varied, they share common characteristics, including enhancing Indigenous rights and responsibilities and a commitment to Indigenous stewardship.

As noted in the 2018 report We Rise by the Indigenous Circle of Experts: “IPCAs are lands and waters where Indigenous governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems. Culture and language are the heart and soul of an IPCA.”

In 2017, Mary Simon, Canada’s Special Representative of Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada indicated in the report A New Shared Leadership Model that there is strong link between Arctic conservation and healthy community building, with a crucial role for Inuit environmental stewardship programs to uphold “an Indigenous vision of a working landscape.” The notion of a “working landscape” shows how IPCAs can also be recognized as having a crucial role in sustaining Indigenous local economies. The Arqvilliit Indigenous Protected Area, which includes the Inuit community of Inukjuak on Hudson Bay, relies on Indigenous-led monitoring and conservation efforts to address climate change impacts such as melting sea ice, the decline of polar bear and seal populations, and reduced access to country food.

More recently, the Kaska Nation has proposed the Dene K’éh Kusān, otherwise known as the Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (KIPCA) which would further support Kaska Dena stewardship practices based on “honouring cultural responsibility to care for the land.” Dene K’éh Kusān means “Always Will Be There” in Dene language. Indigenous stewardship draws from Traditional Indigenous Knowledge in environmental conservation. The Dane Nan Yḗ Dāh Network, which is the Kaska Land Guardian network, plays a key role in sustaining Indigenous stewardship and co-management practices from one generation to the next, and is rooted in Kaska cultural and value systems.

In another example, the Australian Government has given Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) a “specific designation” within the country’s legal framework for conservation management, where cultural values are recognized as integral to long -term conservation planning practices. IPAs are also recognized as Indigenous country,  whereby “country” refers to “land and waters that have enduring cultural, social, and economic linkages for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (TSI) peoples.” Indigenous governance by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is also a crucial component to Australian Indigenous Protected Areas. Enhancing and supporting the network of Indigenous Rangers through ‘Country Needs People’ is also vital to sustaining cultural and ecological Indigenous-led conservation practices in Australia. Aboriginal title, as proof of land “ownership,” is a crucial requirement for inclusion in Australia’s Indigenous Protected Area system.

Despite these encouraging developments, there is so much yet to learn about Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas from the standpoint of Indigenous knowledge keepers around the world.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Kalen Emsley, Unsplash)

Climate Science 2050 (CS2050), a report released in 2020 by Environment and Climate Change Canada provides diverse perspectives on climate science, including Indigenous perspectives, and offers future directions for climate change research in Canada. The report recognizes the impact of “western scientific research practices and colonial policies” on the marginalization of Indigenous perspectives in climate change research and encourages researchers to rectify this historical practice. Guiding principles for CS2050 include Indigenous self-determination and recognition that Indigenous knowledge must ‘coexist’ alongside western science rather than to be subsumed by it. In addition, “collaboration across generations, disciplines, sectors, orders of government, organizations and regions” is highlighted. Examples from Indigenous-led climate change projects are offered throughout the report. At times, the report comes across as geared to a primarily non-Indigenous western audience intending to, or already working with, Indigenous communities. This is especially evident in statements about “supporting capacity building” within Indigenous communities rather than warning against engaging in extractive forms of scientific research. There is a missed opportunity to critique capacity-building approaches often imposed upon Indigenous communities, and to answer the question: capacity for whom, by whom? The report succeeds when it spotlights the climate change priorities of First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities, and the benefits of co-developing research with Indigenous research partners. Readers are encouraged to direct their attention toward supporting, if not funding, Indigenous-led knowledge creation and climate science that contributes to promoting the resilience of future generations.

By Leela Viswanathan

(Image Credit: Michael Hoyt, Unsplash)