Climate Change Forum Final

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					Yukon First Nations Climate
Change Forum Report

Council of Yukon First Nations	          	        	       	        	        	       	       	        	           Arctic Athabaskan Council

February 26 & 27th 2003

Arctic Athabaskan Council   11 Nisutlin Drive Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 3S4   T (867) 393-9214 F (867) 668-6577
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                      Arctic Athabaskan Council

Table of Contents





       4.1 Consultation

       4.2 Environmental Assessment Process & Climate Change

       4.3 Traditional Knowledge Use Information & Holdings 

       4.4 Research and Program Management

       4.5 Partnership

       4.6 Public Communication & Outreach

February 26 & 27th 2003           Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                                     Arctic Athabaskan Council


	      Climate Change impacts will result in profound changes to the traditional way of life in Yukon First Nations
communities. During two workshops held February 6th and 7th and February 25th & 26th 2003 Yukon First Nation Elders
and community representatives viewed presentations, discussed the impact of greenhouse gas production on their own
communities and made recommendations for First Nation and government policymakers to consider.

	      The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) is currently in the process of hiring a Climate change Coordinator. The
primary duty of the position will be to integrate the recommendations from the two workshops into a twofold program: to
promote the efficient use of renewable resource technologies in Yukon First Nation communities and to facilitate adaptation
to climate change impacts through the integration of traditional knowledge into existing community planning processes.

	      Recognizing that the continued engagement of First Nation communities on climate change issues is essential, CYFN
will be bringing the recommendations from the workshop to Leadership in May 2003 and from there, to the CYFN General
Assembly in July 2003.

	      The need for improved communications between scientists and First Nation communities was a recommendation of
the workshop. Away from the presentations, some community members expressed annoyance at the past insensitivity of
scientists to community interests - the example given was a graph taken from an earlier climate change workshop. The
graph depicted a decline in alcohol consumption in a predominately First Nation community as a correlation of warming
winter temperatures. A dubious relationship given most First Nation members view the recent trend to warmer winters as a
significant stressor. For their part, government and researchers appeared stoic in the face of community criticism about
current programs and initiatives. Despite some initial discomfort, by the end of the workshop there seemed to be a
consensus among participants that having the opportunity exchange views and engage in dialogue was good thing, and a
potentially important stepping-stone to more productive partnerships. The workshop clearly heightened the curiosity among
participants about climate change impacts and motivated them to learn more about it and become more involved in
discussions about mitigation and adaptation initiatives.


	      Overall, the workshop proved to be a useful forum for Elders and communities to gain an understanding about
climate change, its causes and potential impacts. The engagement of Elders in the workshop proceedings was greatly
enhanced by their participation an Elders-only climate change workshop held a few weeks earlier. This format should be
used again to ensure Elders are sufficiently briefed to play a meaningful role in complex science and policy discussions.

	      The workshop proved very successful as a forum for conveying information about federal and territorial climate
research initiatives and programs. Participants came away with a better understanding of the central role played by
renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in mitigating greenhouse gas production. However, there was no
consensus as to how governments should proceed in addressing climate change, both in terms of mitigation and impacts.

	      Many First Nation representatives felt they should be more involved in the research and program design being
undertaken by governments, as well the processes for managing climate change related research. Collectively, their
expressions of concern support the view that new pathways to communicate information to First Nation communities are
needed. These should specifically focus on climate change impacts as they relate to community health, human-environment
and ecosystem impacts. Many suggestions can purposefully be used to improve or modify existing program and research

February 26 & 27th 2003              Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                                         Arctic Athabaskan Council

initiatives. Their generality suggests that they might also be applicable to government dealings with First Nation communities
in northern British Columbia and Northwest Territories.

                                                                                 Education is important right now, not
3.0 ELDERS PANEL: HIGHLIGHTS                                                     just to for young people but ourselves...
        -- Agnes Mills

       What’s wrong? Since 1998 there has been no one was trapping. These are the reasons why we’re here now.
(Johnny Smith)

       We see garbage on TV. Where is it all coming from? We’re not keeping the air clean, nothing being done about it.
Containers are just thrown into garbage trucks and thrown into dumps. (Lena Johnson)

   They just float down river (fish). What causes that? Is it because the temperature is different? We have to come up
with something to do about this. I miss seeing snowbirds and all other animals. That’s all. (Charlie Burns)

       Education is important right now, not just to for young people but ourselves, you people can help us. Global
warming affects us all. We don’t get any moose, caribou or rabbits anymore. (Agnes Mills)

       Where are we going to get our voice from? You are living with written laws, handed down from Romans. You believe
everything, you can’t change it. Aboriginal law is natural and growing all the time. You need to understand that we have
laws. (Stanley James).

       You people in authority here need to work with us. We didn’t worship animals but respected them. (Pearl Keenan)

	       (There are) dwindling numbers of fish, especially salmon. If anything were to happen to the tailing ponds (an
accident) it would be very dangerous. Permafrost melting could be a problem. (Danny Joe)

       Traveling back to Whitehorse from Vancouver one year and I came upon a bull moose lying on the road. He stopped
to look at it and he saw hair like a bunch of rocks. What is that? It was bugs. It was full of bugs. Later I saw the moose
walk around it had no hair on it. It was eaten up. Where do the bugs come from? I want to see something done about that.
It isn’t only the moose that has it, its caribou, sheep and lynx too.(Johnny Smith)

	       A lot of lakes (Crow Flats) drying up. Lakes breaking through to each other, will drain out. Tundra north of Old Crow,
caribou affected. The riverbank other side of Old Crow eroding.(Moses Lord)

	       I have spent a lot of time with the Elders and have heard a lot of talk about water. He never thought that he would
see the day when we would worry about water.(Bob Charlie)

                                                                          “You are living with written laws, handed down
                                                                          from Romans ... Aboriginal law is natural and
                                                                          growing all the time.”
	       4.1 Consultation                                                  
       -- AAC Elder Advisor Stanley James

       Yukon Government’s Climate change initiatives: Respect Yukon First Nation Leadership’s call for consultation and a
direct role for First Nations in the delivery of the Climate Change Action Fund Programming.

	       YTG is in the process of developing a Yukon Climate Change Action Plan that will outline all the initiatives that the
YTG is taking to address climate change, whether impacts or finding adaptation measures to cope with climate change that
is already happening. Draft copies of the Action Plan have been circulated internally with YTG this spring, but not shared
with First Nation governments. The strategy that they were working on is based on consultations with First Nations and

February 26 & 27th 2003               Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                                      Arctic Athabaskan Council

communities that took place 5-6 years ago. Given past requests for the direct involvement of First Nations in the climate
change program and research initiatives, it would make for increased community engagement prudent if the Yukon
Government were to involve communities at the outset, before it negotiated for funding for research and programs from the
federal government.

	      4.2 Environmental Assessment Process & Climate Change

      Yukon First Nations are major stakeholders in environmental assessment activites. The Yukon Environmental
Socioeconomic Assessment (YESA) legislation replaces the Canada Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) in Yukon and
became Yukon’s environmental assessment tool for the future. Canada and Yukon are developing a protocol to guide the
assessment of projects against their total greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime as well as looking at risks to the
project from a changing climate. There is the opportunity to look at issues associated with climate change but none of the
legislation says that it must be looked at.

	      Yukon First Nations were partners in developing YESA and should be partners in the development of post-YESA
protocols to guide project assessment. The vulnerability of communities to climate change impacts associated with
completed or proposed projects are a major issue for First Nations. The federal government has said that they will be
responsible and will work with Yukon Government and the First Nations to address issues of mining tailings contamination
related pollution. Climate change related degradation of permafrost and resulting mining tailing pollution should be
specifically addressed in any future protocol. First Nations wish to be consulted on the development of any Protocols on
climate change introduced with a view to modifying or changing existing federal or territorial programs, especially as they
touch on aspects of concluded land claim agreements.

	      4.3 Traditional Knowledge Use Information & Holdings

	      Yukon Government biologists, lands, natural resource and renewable resource councils are all consumers of
Traditional Knowledge. The land claim talks about a single system of wildlife management and obliges First Nations to
provide information including Traditional Knowledge to government under the Land Claim. Some participants expressed a
concern that First Nations were moving away from this model. It was also observed that Traditional Knowledge provided to
government in an unregulated fashion sometimes ends up in a box somewhere and First Nations, who continually give of
themselves, receive little in return for their efforts. One example given was a major Traditional Knowledge database holding
residing on the personal computer of a government official. Who owns such information, the First Nation individual or the
community? What purposes can it be used for? Is it in the public domain? What are First Nations rights and entitlements to
such information? While different groups continue to develop and implement Traditional Knowledge protocols, the legal
status of such agreements remain uncertain, a point that was made by both First Nation and government participants in the

      One Elder commented that the good will which existed in the past between First Nations and governments in sharing
traditional knowledge has become strained: “Today, money talks. In the past I gave away lots of traditional knowledge for
next to nothing. But from now on it doesn’t come cheap. I see lots of people like you come around and we get nothing.
These things need to be looked into.” Another noted some Traditional Knowledge of the land is spiritual, and people don’t
want to share this. Norma Kassi observed that for some, uses of Traditional Knowledge can’t be shared anymore, if First
Nations are to keep these things intact within our communities. For some, to share should mean to get paid. Traditional
Knowledge is under-valued and its practitioners’ way of life threatened.

	      What kind of balance can be struck between cultural, scientific and commercial uses? How is research into
Traditional Knowledge conducted and who authorizes it? Who owns Traditional Knowledge? Is it individual or collective

February 26 & 27th 2003               Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                                          Arctic Athabaskan Council

property? What about database holdings? Who should have access and who should decide such issues? These questions
are especially relevant given the increased pressure likely to be placed on First Nations to share Traditional Knowledge as it
relates to climate change monitoring and impacts. Clarifying these issues will be a priority for First Nations as it works with
governments to implement climate change programs and research.

	      4.4 Research and Program Management

	      Non-aboriginal governments currently play a lead role in setting the agenda for climate change-related research and
program activity in the north, employing different strategies and management techniques in doing so. Some have proved
more effective than others in engaging First Nation communities. For example, the North Ecosystem Initiative (NEI) provides
incentives for grassroots Aboriginal organizations to participate in its activities and seeks to involve them in northern research
related to ecosystem management from the outset. The NEI management structure is particularly noteworthy for its
commitment to working with Aboriginal communities in research prioritizing/ decision-making process and for engaging them
as partners in adjudicating research applications and disseminating the information back to communities.

      NRCan’s emphasis on economic investments and infrastructure partnerships is organized as a national program with
a northern territorial focus. This has precluded the integration of First Nations in many policy and research areas. As well, a
lack of research capacity (qualified Aboriginal researchers) and a focus on science-infrastructure related issues has
precluded direct First Nation participation in the past. If adaptation research is going to be conducted on First Nations land,
particularly where they are functioning as governments, then greater First Nations involvement will be necessary. The
content, process and timing of calls for adaptation impact proposals needs to be reconsidered and greater emphasis placed
on local and regional impacts and perspectives, and opposed to sectoral, disciplinary, or global views. As well, more
frequent exchanges between different government programs operating in the north, as well as with First Nation communities,
is necessary in order to facilitate the sharing ‘best practices’ to improve program delivery.

	      4.5 Partnership

      On the question of partnerships, First Nations expressed a strong commitment to working with governments. What
the nature of the relationship should be, however, is a contested issue. One Elder noted often First Nations don’t want to
share information because they don’t want you to dig it up; they just want non-First Nation ‘experts’ to take our word for it,
but to include First Nations when they do anything (studies). First Nations also want to participate more in decision-making
affecting their communities. Things have changed a lot since 1994 - Yukon and some N.W.T. First Nations now have self -
government. The current structure of some federal government programs does not support community engagement and
local participation in northern research. At the Territorial level, there is a reluctance to deal with central organizations such as
the Council of Yukon First Nations. For example, the current advisory and management committee structure of NRCan
supported regional entities, such as the Northern Climate Exchange and the Yukon Energy Solutions Centre, do not provide
for First Nations participation as governments.

      One Elder asked that if First Nations are working in partnership with YTG why can’t there be money set aside for First
Nation people to work on their own initiatives? Another participant asked what the current level of commitment is to training
so First Nations could participate more effectively in the future (capacity-building)?. “Is it partnerships that we’re looking at?
We hear about big piles of money but end up asking for volunteers. Big climate change is going on in Whitehorse, but need
to get to the information to the grass roots level.”

      Dr. Corell’s presentation on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment study made special note of the increased
vulnerability which will be experienced by indigenous and local communities as a result of climate change. The difference
between impact and a First Nation’s ability to adapt to climate change will become of paramount importance in future. How

February 26 & 27th 2003                Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report
Council of Yukon First Nations	                                                                         Arctic Athabaskan Council

are existing forms of government climate change partnership in research and programming contributing to increased
community resilience or, inadvertently, their risk of vulnerability to climate change impacts?

                                                                                  “Permafrost melts, how are they going to
                                                                                  clean up? Global warming information
	      4.6 Public Communication & Outreach
                                                                                  should be more available to the public.”

      One Elder observed we need to put a communication plan in place especially where there’s dollars, because some
terms are so technical we need to put in lay terms, put cultural and traditional aspects into it. Another was concerned that
information about climate change was not reaching the First Nation communities. “ Permafrost melts, how are they going to
clean up? Global warming information should be more available to the public.” Others felt it would be a good idea if
scientists took time to talk to children in schools and get them interested - but to include Elders in this process: “I feel like I
kept my knowledge in a box because no one asked. We have to give of each other of this earth. Become one family.
Sometimes its hard to express yourself.”

      The opportunity to participate in workshops like this, as vehicles for building partnership, was seen as doing a lot to
bridge the gap between scientists, government programmers and the community, as a way of sharing non-scientific,
traditional perspectives on how to effect change . “People pray how do they know God is up there? How do you know
they're praying? Stories tell us. Good to be here in workshop.”

	      If you have any questions about this report please contact Cindy Dickson at (867) 393-9214 or (867) 393-9215.


Cindy Dickson

February 26 & 27th 2003                Yukon First Nations Climate Change Forum Report