March 17, 2016 - Winter roads are already beginning to melt, much earlier than when the Elders of Far North First Nations were young. Geese are about to fly north, but now they fly over places where they used to land. Life is changing fast for First Nations in the far north of the province. Understanding and describing the impacts of those changes is the goal of a Climate Change Impact Study for remote First Nations in Northern Ontario, to be led by the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources (OCCIAR) at Laurentian University. The study is one of three OCCIAR initiatives to be funded by a $5M investment from the province’s Green Investment Fund, announced today by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, David Zimmer, as part of Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy.
Working with First Nations and in partnership with the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, OCCIAR will allocate the $5M through three projects supporting climate change response in Ontario indigenous communities. OCCIAR will
- develop a Climate Change Impact Study for Ontario’s remote First Nations;
- work with First Nation communities in preparing for the effects of climate change; and
- help First Nations to capitalize on opportunities created by the proposed cap-and-trade program.
“Ensuring that First Nations have the tools they need to fight and adapt to climate change is an imperative that we must take now. Today’s investments will help northern communities most affected by climate change to take the action they need. It will also set the foundation for future planning,” said the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, David Zimmer.
“Climate change is already having a significant impact on First Nations communities and their environments,” said OCCIAR Director Al Douglas. “We are seeing a dramatic reduction in the season for winter roads, which means higher costs and an increasing need to fly supplies in. This investment will help First Nations to build capacity, to deal with climate risks and to limit climate change through carbon storage and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
OCCIAR is a division of the Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) at Laurentian University. It provides climate science and adaptation strategies to assist communities and sectors in adapting to climate change, while serving as a resource in climate change research. The OCCIAR initiative will strengthen the capacity of First Nations to be more resilient to climate change, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
OCCIAR’s work will be done in collaboration with Laurentian’s School of the Environment through the participation of Laurentian Professor David Pearson, former Co-chair of Ontario’s Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Science Advisor at OCCIAR.
“This is not just about working with First Nations to help make their communities more environmentally friendly. It’s also about trying to inspire young people to see themselves with jobs that fit with the environmental values of the Elders in their community. It’s about vision and imagination as well as reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and managing carbon,“ said Dr. Pearson.
Ontario’s $325M Green Investment Fund is part of the province’s Climate Change Strategy.