Question Period: Impact of Climate Change

By: The Hon. Judy White

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Hon. Judy A. White: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate, and it pertains to the worsening effects of climate change on infrastructure that is disproportionately impacting Indigenous communities.

Earlier this month, First Nations leaders in both remote northern Manitoba and northern Ontario declared states of emergency due to the conditions of their winter roads. The warmer-than-average winter has had a devastating impact on these essential road networks, leaving many communities cut off from crucial deliveries of things like food, fuel and supplies. Ice road delays have been an issue for other communities as well.

Senator Gold, what is the federal government doing to respond to these serious threats to Indigenous communities?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you very much. Climate change is an existential threat to all of us, and the impact is felt very severely in Indigenous communities, especially on issues of resilience and the ability to adapt to it. Since 2020, the government has announced over $2 billion in climate action funding targeted to Indigenous peoples throughout Canada through Canada’s climate plan, which is called A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.

In addition, there have been additional budget allocations in Budget 2021, Budget 2022 and Budget 2023, and these include, among others, investments such as $290 million over a 12-year period to support greener and more resilient infrastructure, $163.4 million over three years to improve food security in the North — including in Inuit communities — and an additional $22.7 million over five years to support First Nations and Inuit as they cope with climate change.

Senator White: Thank you, Senator Gold. A thawing ice road delaying the arrival of fire trucks is suggested to be the contributing factor in the destruction of Eabametoong First Nation’s only school in northern Ontario, which was devastated by fire last month. I’m certainly pleased that the Minister of Indigenous Services has committed funding for the temporary replacement school, but I’m wondering what plans there are to address the underlying infrastructure issues.

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. Again, your question and my response also underscore the importance of infrastructure and resilience. There are processes — joint government-Indigenous community processes — to address a full range of issues pertaining to climate change as well as broader issues than climate change, and that’s a subject that I’m convinced is on the table between Indigenous leadership and the Government of Canada.

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