The following webinar was hosted by the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition (RLSC). Three climate change experts joined RLSC Executive Director Claire Malcolmson to discuss mitigation measures on how to lessen the impacts of climate change to Lake Simcoe.
The experts are:
- Dianne Saxe discusses the impacts of climate change in a public policy context, focusing on the effects of urban sprawl. She also discusses what we lose when wetlands, woodlands and farmlands are negatively impacted by climate change.
- Al Douglas talks about his work at the Climate Risk Institute and highlight opportunities for municipalities and community groups to act against climate change.
- Kerry-Ann Charles (Environment Partnership Coordinator for Cambium Indigenous Professional Services) provides insight into the effects climate change will have on First Nations communities, specifically Georgina Island, as well as discusses opportunities for climate change adaptation planning in Lake Simcoe.
Transcription for Kerry-Ann Charles Presentation Below (Starts at the 1:00:00 mark of the video webinar)
Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition
Presentation by Kerry-Ann Charles
Chippewas of Georgina Island Member
Environment Partnership Co-ordinator
Cambium Indigenous Professional Services (CIPS)
Thanks Claire, thank you for asking me to speak today. Especially when it comes to being able to speak about my community and the work that we've done. As Claire mentioned, I am from the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation and there I worked (and wore many hats)...in 2017 I had to make the big decision to leave my community to be able to expand the knowledge that I have and be able to work more closely with some other Indigenous and Non Indigenous Communities in terms of not only climate change and adaptation but the importance of protecting and preserving our environment for future generations.
Claire has asked me to speak mostly about the work we've done within my community on climate change so I am going to...and this actually fits well with how Al presented this morning (or this afternoon) and that's actually where Al and I met when Al was doing the work for the Lake Simcoe protection plan and the climate change adaptation planning that was done there.
During the climate change adaptation strategy and plan that we developed for my community we had multiple partners involved in this and if it wasn't for each and every one of them, the plan that we developed wouldn't have been as successful as it is today.
For those of you who don't know about Georgina Island we are located right in Lake Simcoe. We're actually three islands, Georgina which is the main island and is off of Virginia Beach marina and we have two smaller islands that are closer to the Keswick Island Grove are that really don't have community members that don't live on those Islands (they are cottages) and what we call out own source revenue.
We do have a multitude of different facilities within our community that keep us running such as our own fire hall, police station and that kind of stuff but we do have to travel off and out of the community for things like groceries and gas (and those necessities).
Our link to climate change, as I mentioned earlier Al and I actually met (and I've been privileged to work with him since 2011) when Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (now known as Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada) came out with their climate change funding and before that we had already embarked on (in my community) a multitude of other environmental projects that have been very, very successful at and we are very progressive in environmental issues.
In 2011 I had this proposal come across my desk and fortunately at the time (this is actually around the same time I met Claire) the climate change funding came out through INAC and I approached Al since he was doing the work with Lake Simcoe, Watershed to see if he would partner with me and at the time I had very little (or next to no knowledge) about what climate change really was so having him as a partner was really beneficial and we were able to develop a really awesome framework that we've been using over the last 10 years now and helping other First Nations Communities to develop adaptation plans and implementation plans
Part of our climate change work, one of the things we really focused in on being that we are working in my community, which is an Indigenous Community was that whole connection (ecological connection) and what climate change (and the effects of climate change) were doing and what effects (into the future) was climate change going to have on our community.
We developed the 7 step framework which we went through. The first one was gathering data.
As part of gathering that data, instead of really focusing on the Western science data, which a lot of these projects do and a lot of environmental projects really focus in on collecting that Western science to inform the decisions that are being made and the projects that are moving forward. What we did was step back and we actually looked at my community and we asked community members their traditional ecological knowledge.
The traditional ecological knowledge is really that information that has been passed down from generation to generation about the area in which we live in. It's those stories from your Grandfather (or your great Grand Father) who got those stories about changes and the connections between all that live within the ecosystems and make up that biodiversity and how they interact with each other and the changes have been noticed when certain species disappear or certain species appear such as an invasive species.
That really formed, and it took a year to really talk to our community members about those changes that they've seen.
In doing that, we also developed an advisory committee where every step of the way, as we collected information and as we tried to collect information we had a group of people that were there to help us do that within the community that also than we're able to ensure that the project team itself were hearing what the community was saying and that we were able to take that information forward to develop climate change / adaptation plans.
Back to the traditional ecological knowledge survey. It was a survey that was developed by Dr. David Pearson which he used in the far North, that we used as a framework but than ensure that it suited the needs of our community.
We were looking at being able to identify things from the survey that reflect our community and make any changes to that survey in order to ensure that we were getting the information we needed to move forward with adaptation planning. Anywhere from asking questions to changes in the bush, changes to the fish, changes to the animals even the clouds (the formation of the clouds), things like that. As well as any health issues the community has started to see over time.
One of the big things that I think was really awesome for this project, in terms of the project team was us developing what we called "impact trees".
Being an Indigenous community we are a very visual people so to be able to visualize what those impacts that the community has identified through the traditional ecological knowledge survey to be able to put those in a way so that the community can actually see those impacts which is very, very important.
When we came up with this idea of the impact trees and using the vulnerabilities we had identified such as the extreme precipitation that we are all experiencing (in terms of climate change) and be able to sort of paint a picture for our community members of what those impacts look like from that particular piece was very awesome in terms of being able to show the community members as well that we were really listening to what they had to say.
We really wanted to take what they had experienced to be able to use that, to be able to plan for the future. Most of the times (and I can attest to this as a community member) and I'm sure a lot of people can in terms of government itself and being asked your opinion about something, often when we give our opinion, then asked about those opinions we don't visually see or we don't see the impacts of our own personal opinions.
We took their words, verbatim and used it throughout the development of the plan. This is just some of the prioritized impacts that were identified from the community members and of course our transportation really was something that came up on top. Being that we are an island community that depends on a ferry
boat during the 3 seasons but very much depend on an ice road during the winter season which climate change has really started to hinder and make very unsafe over the last decade.
With the information that we collected from our community members which of course is also the historical information we also looked at historical information from the western science lens.
We were able to take that historical information and really look at what are community members were saying and what we did, again what was different from what's usually done in these kinds of projects is that we actually used our traditional ecological knowledge to validate the western science.
In most cases, the western science is being used to validate the traditional ecological knowledge when in fact the traditional ecological knowledge is something that has been there for thousands of years compared to the western science which as only really been around for a certain number of years and really only looks at things in a certain amount of time where traditional knowledge looks at the changes over a very vast amount of time.
We were able to take all of that information and try and project some of the risks moving into the future with climate change.
These are actual pictures from my community and the effects of climate change. Some of the things that have been identified, of course winter is our biggest impacts that were being felt.
Our ice road is not freezing the way it used to. With the changes in wind (the more extreme winds) we are getting a lot more ice pile ups which is causing damage to houses that are along the shore which I'm sure could happen in other areas around Lake Simcoe where there are houses close to the shore.
In terms of trying to define what our risks are for our community we went through a consequence and likelihood exercise which Al does a lot in the work he does as well which we took the information that we received from our community members and prioritized with those risks look like but than also measured what the likelihood and consequences of those risks would be.
This is something that we developed and geared to our community. The 4 consequence areas that we looked was our social, economic, environmental and our cultural consequences and what those likelihoods of certain things happening moving into the future and how that would affect our community.
This is the risk matrix that we put together for our community which than shows you what the consequence is and the likelihood and shows you where that lands in your risk and being able to
adapt or come up with adaptation measures.
There were 5 areas in which we focused in on which were changes in winter, changes in summer, extreme precipitation, wind and drought.
With those we actually, all of our information as well along the way, we took back to the community...we took back to the advisory committee first to get them to validate that what we were saying really resonated with the community but than took that information back to the community as a whole to ensure that the path we were on was in fact their path and not something the project team started to embark on.
With that we actually developed priorities of risk for our community with the red being the highest risk and than the greens being the lower risk. We started to develop adaptation actions around those risks.
What we did in our community, we came up with adaptation actions for risks (that as community members) asked what risks were associated with those changes that were identified.
If those changes were identified and the adaptation measures that were currently in place (if we asked ourselves those questions) if those adaptation measures that were already in place often at times we didn't really realize recognize that those we actually adaptation measures because we really didn't realize what we had been doing was associated with climate change but than asked our community members if we thought that what we were doing to adapt to those certain situations if they would be robust enough for future and a continued change in climate.
With those questions we actually developed adaptation actions around whether or not those things that we were doing were going to be good enough.
If we thought they were going to be good enough we didn't really spend a lot of time in terms of trying to figure out what would be good enough for the future. We did develop an adaptation plan which came up with 64 recommendations moving forward for our community.
One of the other things that we did for our community was look at already established policies and reviewed them for any barriers or drivers in terms of looking at our changing climate and adapting into the future.
There were a number of plans that we reviewed and highlighted what the barriers were (in terms of) when policy was being changed, things that needed to be changed in that policy but than also highlighted drivers within those policies that we could make sure we were moving forward to adapt and to mitigate our changing climate.
Some of those things that we had pointed out we were actually able to put into action. Another thing that we did within our community was, we were able to do what we call "hazard mapping".
In certain sections (we actually partnered with Georgian College in Barrie to do this specific project) was, we were able to identify, using maps areas within the community that might be under more stress or be more vulnerable to climate change and create issues within the community in the future and be able to try to be more proactive in adapting to those identified risks.
One of these was a very simple change or adaptation was looking at all or our culverts and than identifying through the GIS (geographical information system) whether or not that what was currently there in terms of flooding and the more precipitation that we were getting was going to be sufficient in moving forward in the future.
In some of those areas we were already having flooding so we change some of our culverts to moving forward into the future that they were going to be sufficient in handling those more heavily...more frequent precipitation weather (from climate change).
We looked at our emergency planning and developed certain things around there in terms of flooding and drought and being able to be proactive.
One of the other things we were able to do and something that I am doing now is working with Cambium Indigenous Professional Services is being able to take the framework that we developed and start to work with other First Nations communities. The first partnerships that we started were with the Williams Treaties First Nations which are actually communities that have a tie to the Lake Simcoe watershed.
We started doing adaptation planning with them using the framework that we developed and using traditional ecological knowledge as that foundation for developing those plans (moving forward).
We faced a lot of challenges much like anybody that is working in the environmental field especially when we're now trying to understand, mitigate and adapt to a changing climate is funding. Funding, resources and capacity are often not there as needed but again...I think Diane and Claire spoke a lot about that at the beginning of this webinar in terms of the importance of that collective.
Of us rallying together as people to voice our concerns about the environment and the impacts of us not voicing our concerns and not listening to those other beings which are the trees, the animals, the habitats, the wetlands. All of those things are crying out for help and giving us that key information about what we can do and how we can protect our environment and ourselves, our own health and well-being in the times of a changing climate.
There was also some talk about the health units and health units undertaking some vulnerability assessments and it's crazy because of the fact that (and Al also talked about the planners) because of the work that I was able to do in my community and all of the vast departments and being able to get a really, a very holistic view (I guess) of how things work together.
Especially with Indigenous Lands and over the last 10 years being able to understand what being Indigenous and what that Indigenous lens means for myself and the work that I do is that all of these different departments and different governmental organizations and businesses are very segmented from each other in terms of moving forward and doing this work where I have been very privileged to work with all of these different sectors.
Something that I try to do is get them to stop being so segregated from themselves and working on only what they see, those lenses because everything is so connected.
I am working with the health units (actually) right now and they're doing a vulnerability assessment and trying to understand what work is being done and implemented in terms of climate change and adapting and mitigating those health issues that are really coming to the forefront from climate change.
Also than, being able to look at what Al is doing in terms of the planning sector and those engineers and getting them to have a lens in terms of climate change. It's funny how the health sector and the planning sector don't really work together but they're so integral in terms of being able to prepare for our future and work collaboratively with our surrounding environment to prepare ourselves for what's to come or to mitigate and adapt to those effects.
Planning in neighborhoods is such a huge piece in mitigating and adapting to those health issues that are being talked about and seeing very much so within the health field of climate change.
Planting a tree to ensure that (or not taking down a tree) in a development that is established to ensure that there is more shade from those more intense heat and that shading your house so that you're not using as much energy to cool your house. It's all of those connections that really need to be made moving forward.
It's the knowledge that the Indigenous Communities hold and how those bio-diverse environmental areas and how they play into the western science thinking of planning and healthcare moving forward is such a key piece that has been missing for so long that I think needs to be supported. Those voices need to be out there and we all need to pool our voices together to be able to champion that stuff.
With that being said, I will end there.