APTN National News
NIAGARA FALLS – For far too long governments ignored the warnings from elders.
Elders who could see shift in climate.
Ice beneath their feet thinner, more forest fires and temperatures rising.
The elders saw it but no one was listening according to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna who addressed chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations’ 37th annual general assembly in Niagara Falls Wednesday.
“There is clearly something unique and special in the relationship that First Nations have with the land and I believe that knowledge that supports those relationships is extremely important to our efforts to protect the environment and preserve these magnificent spaces,” said McKenna.
McKenna didn’t take questions from chiefs after her speech but is going to meet with them Thursday morning where she may hear from people like Chief Leo Friday of Kashechewan First Nation.
His community in northern Ontario along the Albany River is evacuated every spring. Friday is convinced climate change is the reason for the flooding.
He is asking for chiefs to support him in an AFN resolution to push the federal government to relocate the community to hire ground on their territory.
Since 2014, Ottawa has spent more than $13 million evacuating residents and Friday estimates since 2005 that number could reach nearly $100 million.
Friday has said he’s asked for the community to be moved in the past but it didn’t happen.
“I think this time l want to do something different, if the chiefs can back me up moving forward with the relocation process, I think this thing will push a little harder than last time,” he said.
McKenna may also hear from Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council.
“Climate change is not going to happen tomorrow. It’s happening right now, it was since yesterday and I think we’re at a stage now where we’re beginning to see the impacts of climate change and we’re beginning to notice it,” said Solomon.
McKenna told chiefs the government plans to consult First Nations because Canada needs Indigenous knowledge and ideas to fight climate change.
“We need to be part of the process because our elders- we know the land, we grew up on the land, we know what we have seen- the changes that has happened over time. So we can be part of the process using our traditional knowledge,” said Solomon.