Ministerial Question Period: Impact of Climate Change

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Welcome, minister. First, I would like to say how impressive Canadian-Indigenous participation was at COP 27.

Since the 2019 report of the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic, climate change issues in the North have accelerated. The melting of the permafrost, in addition to melting sea ice, is posing critical problems with the building and maintenance of infrastructure, including airport runways essential to accessing northern communities. As you said to Senator Plett, the Government of Canada has committed to close the infrastructure gap by 2030.

Is there a status report on progress on these issues indicating where we stand now in 2022?

Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario: Thank you very much. In terms of whether there is a status report, there are a number of different gaps analyses, but I don’t think there is a comprehensive gaps analysis. However, I did direct the department to begin that work when I was appointed a year ago, and we’re starting to get a better sense from a fiscal perspective, at the very least.

You’re right. Certainly, it is a lot about money, and, indeed, the costs are mounting. As the weather becomes more and more extreme and as we see global disruptions in the economy, in fact, infrastructure is becoming more and more expensive.

To your point, it is a sad reality that Indigenous communities are first and foremost on the front lines of climate change and are experiencing it more profoundly. They are seeing the changes.

The disruption in access to food is heartbreaking. I was in the Yukon visiting with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. I am wearing earrings from that region today. It was hard not to weep when people spoke about the loss of food — and it’s not just about food. It’s about a connection to the food and the cultural connection to that food. I like to say that over the past year, Indigenous people have taught me from a heart place what it means to think of the world and to think of ourselves as “being a part” of instead of “being a dominion over.” It is truly a profound shift for me. I also share with my colleagues that I have become somewhat of a raving environmentalist especially when I see the devastation in communities like Peguis, or in the B.C. Coldwater Creek area, or in northern Ontario, where forest fires are ravaging, or meeting the Tsilhqotʼin out west and the work they’re doing to protect their community; you can see I have a lot to say —

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, minister, but your time has expired.

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