With many Yukon Aboriginal people experiencing major impacts on their way of life due to the effects of climate change, government officials recently met with Aboriginal leaders and other leaders in Whitehorse at the first intergovernmental forum in stand since the pandemic hit 27 months ago.
Leaders representing Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations gathered at the forum, last held in 2019 – and climate change and its toxic effects on life in the North – and on First Nations communities in particular – were high on the agenda.
Each of these organizations is concerned about the ever-increasing impacts of climate change in the Yukon. Leaders stressed the growing need to fight climate change by investing in clean energy, and the imperative to protect a way of life and important cultural resources.
Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston said Yukon First Nations are “united” and grateful for the opportunity to voice their concerns.
“The Intergovernmental Forum offers Yukon First Nations and Yukon government leaders the opportunity to have an audience with the federal government and speak with one voice on behalf of Yukoners on issues that impact our communities,” he said.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver said only through collaboration and increased partnership can the crisis be alleviated.
“Today’s Intergovernmental Forum was a great opportunity to meet with Yukon First Nations and federal leaders to discuss climate change, land use planning, Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and our continued work to advance reconciliation,” he said. our shared priorities that we will build a more vibrant, prosperous and sustainable territory for Yukoners today and for future generations.
Weeks before the conference, Silver – and other territorial premiers – called for increased investment and government assistance in combating the effects of climate change. Government figures indicate the North is warming at three times the global rate.
“The time to act is now,” reads the joint statement from the premiers. “The lessons learned from climate action in the North will be valuable elsewhere in the North and South in the years to come and will be of great benefit to future generations.”
Silver said he and his territorial counterparts hope to ensure “the voices of the North are as loud as possible and united as possible” on issues ranging from Arctic security to climate change, housing, healthcare public health and safety.
Climate change is of particular importance in Canada’s North, where global warming has significant impacts on shoreline erosion, wildfire risk and permafrost stability. Many Yukoners, and in particular Yukon First Nations, are experiencing impacts to their infrastructure and way of life, which are closely tied to land and water.
The federal government committed $25 million in Budget 2021 to support climate change and clean energy initiatives in the Yukon, which will “help Northern and Indigenous partners advance important projects to improve resilience communities and participate in a clean energy transition,” the government statement said.
Marc Lalonde, reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative, Iori:wase