A Glimpse of the Future: Climate Change and the Catastrophes of Summer 2021
This summer has been a catastrophe for British Columbia, particularly for First Nations. The impacts of global warming combined with local conditions have brought heatwaves, wildfires, drought conditions, and floods in the early summer. These events, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the discoveries of unmarked graves in residential schools, and the opioid crisis have further strained communities across BC.
At the end of June and into July, BC endured a blistering heatwave due to a heat dome over the province; an event largely driven by the changing climate. For about a week, temperatures in BC reached a staggering maximum between 35 to 50 °C. Whit sweltering heat, everyone in BC fell vulnerable to the possibility of wildfires, heat and smoke-related health problems, droughts, loss of fresh water supply, food security, and crop destruction. More than 500deaths in BC were reported to be linked with the extreme heatwave.
Near the village of Lytton, Kanaka Bar Indian Band's Lot 4 weather station recorded a temperature of 50.2 °C on June 29, 2021—a temperature never before seen in Canada. A devastating wildfire started on the evening of June 30, 2021, which destroyed almost the entire village of Lytton during its rapid spread. Communities within and near Lytton had to evacuate within minutes.
Wildfires stand as one of the many catastrophes in BC that will continue to amplify as climate change persists. To date (July 29th), there are currently more than 240 active wildfires in BC, and more than twelve First Nations communities are under evacuation order or alert.
There was also an increase in extreme events such as floods and droughts. With zero to limited rainfall events across BC persisting for more than a month, many regions have been
experiencing higher drought levels, seven regions reaching Drought Level 4: Adverse Impacts Likely. This means elevated risks of wildfires, drastic losses in crops, extreme water shortages, and strains on community and ecosystem health.
These recent catastrophic extreme events have not only exemplified the power of climate change, but have continued to reveal gaps in the province's response to adequately address the climate emergency in the short and long-term. The lack of robust emergency plans with proper procedures and protocols in place is limiting a rapid and effective response to affected First Nations communities. Furthermore, BC's current climate targets, policies and measures are still far from reflecting the urgency of climate change. BC continues to support projects and industries expanding the use of fossil fuel energy, further contradicting clean energy and net-zero emissions goals.
First Nations are on the frontline of climate change impacts. The ongoing perpetuation of environmental racism is evident in the disproportionate impacts of emergency events in remote First Nations communities. BC must fully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People Act in the climate response without delay, provide the proper financial and technical assistance, and recognize the jurisdiction and authority of First Nations across BC. This will ensure that communities can fully exercise their unique role in the stewardship of their territories and prepare, adapt, mitigate and recover from the impacts of climate change. It is time to let First Nations lead in the fight against Climate Change and in the emergency response within their territories.
BCAFN Climate Action Webinar Series: How to Find and Use Climate Data for Climate Action
BCAFN is welcoming all First Nations to join our upcoming webinar "How to Find and Use Climate Data for Climate Action" as a part of our climate action webinar series. The webinar will take place on August 4th, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (PDT).
→ Register for the webinar on August 4th, 2021 here
Indigenous Information Sessions on the "Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework for Project Reviews and Regulatory Decisions" Draft
All Indigenous members are invited to join one of the upcoming information sessions to discuss the Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework for Project Reviews and Regulatory Decisions draft. This draft Framework will guide the implementation of Indigenous knowledge provisions in the Impact Assessment Act, Canadian Navigable Waters Act, Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and the Fisheries Act. More information can be found here
→ Register for Session 2 on August 25th, 2021 here
→ Register for Session 3 on September 8th, 2021 here
Feedback for the Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy (Deadline: August 12th, 2021)
This strategy outlines how the Province will prepare for the current and foreseeable effects of climate change, providing a set of actions for 2021-2022 and a set of proposed actions for 2022-2025. Indigenous people in BC are invited to share their feedback on the draft's proposed actions for 2022 to 2025 by August 12th, 2021 (4:00 P.M. PDT). Learn more about the strategy here
→ Review the submission criteria and provide your feedback to (email@example.com)
Indigenous Feedback for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan (Deadline: September 15th, 2021)
Under the Declaration Act (DRIPA), the Province will implement an action plan to align with the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Indigenous people in BC are invited to share their feedback on the draft action plan developed by the Government of BC with Indigenous partners by September 15th, 2021. Learn more about the draft plan here
→ Learn about the different ways to provide your feedback here
BC Indigenous Agriculture Development Program (Deadline: Open until filled)
This program provides two streams of funding to support Indigenous success in the food and agriculture sector. Stream 1 is for Indigenous governments, communities and organizations. Stream 2 is for Indigenous entrepreneurs. Learn more about the program details, eligibility, and application step using this guide for Stream 1 or this guide for Stream 2.
→ For more information, contact (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Canada Community Revitalization Fund (Deadline: Priority is given to submissions given by July 23rd, but will be open until filled)
To help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this fund provides financial support for community infrastructure projects. Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations or charities, municipal or regional government bodies providing infrastructure services to communities, and Indigenous-led not-for-profits and organizations. Priority is given to submissions given by July 23rd, but other projects will be considered if funds are available. Learn more about the fund, eligibility and application steps here and access the applicant guide here.
→ For more information, contact the toll-free number at 1-(877)-333-6673.
First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (Deadline: September 30th, 2021)
This fund provides Capacity and Equity Funding to support First Nations bands and governing bodies in BC seeking to increase community participation in the clean energy sector within their traditional territories. The fund will also provide agreements between the BC Government and successful applicants, including revenue sharing agreements. Capacity Funding will assist clean energy project feasibility studies, community energy planning, and engagement with proponents, whereas Equity Funding will support a financially viable and resources clean energy project with an Energy Purchase Agreement. Learn more about the fund, revenue sharing, eligibility and application steps using this guide.
→ For more information, contact (email@example.com).
Heiltsuk First Nation Signs a Reconciliation Deal with the Province
On June 18, 2021, The Heiltsuk First Nation, a remote community-based in Bella Bella, BC, has reached a reconciliation agreement with the Government of BC. Through the reconciliation deal, the Nation has received $22.33 million which will support the implementation of Heiltsuk rights, title, and self-government, as well as support the Nation's work in economic development, environmental stewardship, cultural preservation, and housing. Additionally, the funding will be allocated towards developing a language centre and programs, increasing tourism opportunities, building a lumber mill, and creating a long-term care facility for the Elders of the Heiltsuk Nation. Read more about the story here .
Blueberry River First Nations win a Treaty Rights Case
On June 29, 2021, The Blueberry River First Nations, a community part of the Treaty 8 First Nations, has won a case they filed in 2015 regarding the Province's breach of their Treaty Rights. In 2021, the Court has confirmed that the B.C. Province's forestry, oil and gas, agriculture, mining, and hydroelectric development activities have been inhibiting the Blueberry River First Nations' ability to exercise their Rights. The Court has ordered the Province to stop the authorization of activities that continue to violate the Nations' Treaty Rights, giving involved parties a six-month clause to redress their activities. Read more about the story here.
Lhoosk'uz Dené Village Gets Clean Tap Water after 20 Years
In July 2021, The Lhoosk'uz Dené Village, a remote community of 50 people based in Kluskus Lake, BC near Quesnel, have gained access to clean drinking water from their taps. The community initiated a partnership with members from the UBC Faculty of Applied Science and the RESEAU Centre for Mobilizing Innovation, and together they implemented a new water treatment plant using ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection. With the infrastructure that caters to their unique needs, the community now has a safe drinking water supply, ending their 20-years long reliance on sources including untreated well and stream water, and bottled water. Read more about the story here.
Leq'á:mel, Matsqui and Sumas First Nations Signs Agreement with Municipal and Provincial Governments
On July 21, 2021, the traditional lands of the Leq'á:mel, Mastqui and Sumas First Nations have been returned after reaching an agreement with the BC province and the City of Mission. The three First Nations will be given 60 hectares of Crown lands by the province; which will be divided into a 50-hectares park parcel to be leased by the City of Mission to use as a community park and recreation area, as well as two development parcels that the Nations will utilize to create housing, economic and social opportunities. Read more about the story here.
Bill C-12: Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act
On June 22, 2021, Bill C-1 has also received Royal Assent, becoming law. The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act that will respect transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
British Columbia Hydrogen Strategy
On July 6, 2021, the Government of B.C. released the Hydrogen Strategy, a blueprint for a provincial energy transition into hydrogen energy. As B.C. paves a plan for this shift, First Nations share the opportunity in becoming partaking leaders and members in this transition.
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