Climate change has led to dramatic and unpredictable events in British Columbia (BC), including the 2021 heat dome and wildfires this summer that have forced evacuations from communities.
All communities across BC face potential harms from a changing climate. First Nations have been taking direct action to understand and address these changes occurring in their territories, including the impacts to wholistic health and wellness.
Climate change can affect human health directly and indirectly by:
Tsleil-Waututh and Fort Nelson First Nations have recently concluded their own assessments to the ways climate change is and will be impacting their communities. The projects were enabled in part through funding from the FNHA's Indigenous Climate Health Action Program (ICHAP), established to support First Nations leadership in building community health resilience against climate impacts.
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) has developed a Climate Change and Community Health Action Plan that builds on extensive health, land use, and environmental planning initiatives over the past decade, including a Climate Change Resilience Action Plan published in 2021. The initiative resulted in a set of proactive actions to build TWN community health and resilience to climate change.
“The link between climate change and health is a topic of growing interest and TWN is one of many Indigenous communities demonstrating leadership in planning to reduce the impacts of climate change on community health.” – Tsleil Waututh Nation Summary Report
In order to help define and build understanding of TWN's vulnerabilities to climate change, their team developed a unique framework that identifies the full spectrum of community health. This framework will help to guide the assessment of community health vulnerabilities to climate change to identify current and recommended actions. The 13 desired health outcomes identified through the process will continue to inform the development of priority actions and act as health indicators for tracking progress on building community health resilience.
Read TWN's report here
Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) has also undertaken a climate-change risk assessment that was Indigenous-led, community based, and inclusive of the Indigenous world view. Through engagement with community members, climate-related concerns were identified across a range of areas including wildlife habitat, vegetation, soil and permafrost, air quality, weather, water quality and availability, aquatic species, fish and fish habitat, moose and ungulates, human physical health and well-being, culture and enjoyment of traditional use areas, and mental health. These risks were then further evaluated for likelihood and significance.
While the risk assessment prioritized specific concerns, FNFN made “space for the Indigenous world view that respects the interdependence and relationships between all aspects of creation, including water, earth, air, all life, and humans." They also noted that this understanding is foundational to an Indigenous knowledge-based climate assessment that highlights how small changes can affect the entire system.
As part of action planning, FNFN community members were also asked about potential climate-related risks and adaptation strategies. The Nation anticipates that the results of this assessment will inform various community planning initiatives moving forward.
If you would like to read the Executive Summary of this initiative please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
The FNHA recently opened the call for new Expressions of Interest from communities looking to undertake climate-health action projects starting in 2024. More information about the funding and application process can be found on the program's webpage.