Exchange on climate change in Tuktoyaktuk

Exchange on climate change in Tuktoyaktuk.

Transcript - Exchange on climate change in Tuktoyaktuk

Fred Wolkie: I think I'll do it in both ways, English and Inuvialuktun. As we are gathered here today for this meeting, I would like to say that I was invited to do the prayer for this meeting. And I said OK, I'll be here and that's why I'm here right now. And, really, I don't know what's really the background of this, but I know that there has been something that has to do with the Community Corporation, I think And my name is Fred Wolkie, by the way. And I would like to say that, for this meeting, that we all have to work together, for the future of our Inuvialuits and that's why we're here today. And I just want to let you know that we're all here as the Community Corporation people. And right now I would like to say a prayer for this coming meeting.

(Prayer in English and Inuvialuktun).

Hon. Dan Vandal: Listen, thank you for your patience and thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I just wanted to have a chat about the challenges we're having, not the COVID challenges and the pandemic, but climate change challenges. I know that it's a tremendous, it's a tremendously important issue for the entire world, but I know that in the north the climate is changing 3 times faster than it is in the south. And you know that more than anybody.

And so this morning we were proud to make an announcement of investment of over 5, about 5 and a half million dollars in your region in support of climate change adaptation. And I know that the young people there have done some work on climate change prior to the announcement this morning. So I think the announcement is good news, for sure, but I thought we would have a chat and talk about the work that has already been done on climate change. And I'm very interested in finding out what you can tell me, the realities on the ground in your territory relative to climate change, the work that's already been done and where we go from here. So really it's that, the conversation is that simple. I thank you for taking the time to have this conversation.

As I started to say earlier, I'm sure anxious for the time where we can put the computers away and sit down face to face and have a dialogue and meet, and I can see first-hand the realities of your territory. I work closely with MP Mike McLeod and I look forward to continuing to support Tuktoyaktuk and your challenges and your work to address climate change. So thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me.

Candice Cockney: Hello. Hi, Minister. I am Candice Cockney. I am the moderator on this side. I would just like to introduce these 3 that are sitting with us. This is Ariel Lugt. She is part of our climate monitoring project, and also.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Hi, Ariel.

Candice Cockney: (crosstalk) project. This is Nathan Kuptana. He is also part of our film project that was funded by you. And this is Randall Pokiak. He is a respected Elder, historian and he (inaudible) Inuvialuit for the land claim agreement.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK. Good.

Candice Cockney: There. Here's our 2 youth and our Elder.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Good. Good. So can one of the youth, were you both involved in the film that was made recently on the effects of climate change?.

Eriel Lugt: Yes, we were.

Nathan Kuptana: Yes, we were. On that and, due to COVID, we can't do the phase 2 of the Happening To Us and we've been, we've both been to the COP25 climate change conference and it was quite the experience to hear other problems around the world with climate change affecting the culture and the communities and the cities.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK. And what can you tell me about the real effects of climate change in your territory and the work that you've done to address it?.

Nathan Kuptana: Climate change is affecting us in many ways. So, of course, the erosion, high water.

Eriel Lugt: We have to move our houses more inland because.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Oh, OK. Right.

Eriel Lugt: they're falling in. So that's a big hassle.

Nathan Kuptana: So we work from scientists from Natural Resources Canada. And Ariel and other members that were help filming with them, doing sampling and filming all around our community and seeing a bunch of climate change. Ariel probably has more information because last year I wasn't able to help them. I was working with my dad.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK. OK.

Eriel Lugt: So the climate monitoring I do, we just go out on the land every once a week. And we collect samples, just simple samples of the water, the permafrost, and all that and we keep track of it and send it to, well, that's what TCC sends. So it's a pretty good job.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK. OK, good. Good. And will you be involved in any future actions or work on climate change, maybe with some of the funding that was announced this morning?.

Nathan Kuptana: I.

Eriel Lugt: Yes.

Nathan Kuptana: hope so because I need more knowledge to be up in that level, to take action.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK. OK, good. Good. Good.

Randall Pokiak: OK, I think I can speak more about our settlement region because that's, NWT's quite, quite large. Different groups of people, different environments that other Indigenous people living up the river. But I can speak pretty well in our settlement region because that's how we make our living, so as hunters and trappers and fishermen.

And there's been a lot of changes that's been going on through the years, in one lifespan. I mean, I'm 71 and I've seen a lot of changes in my time as I travelled the land, and even those before me. I mean, those that have died long and gone before me, they've always talked about the natural environment, such as erosion and the odd, odd weather, like abnormal weather. And our people have talked about those.

So those are traditional knowledges that we keep in mind as we get older, and you always learn from the past and try to adjust our lives accordingly. And the worst case scenarios are always of, talked about in detail between Elders. And I managed to catch those people that talked about those issues. And I've, ever since graduating high school in 1970, I've been out in the land and getting that practical experience of actually working the land and making an income, getting the food out of the land. And that was my childhood dream and I lived it.

I'm 71 now and I just got back from a hunt this spring with my daughter and one of my sons, and just in that one year we see a lot of changes along the coast as to how far we've travelled. Because we travelled about 200 miles from our community, for about 3 weeks we were gone, and all of the changes that I actually saw, and talking to my daughter and son and letting them be aware, because they see the changes themselves. From every year that we go there, things change.

The breakwaters are relocating, some of them are gone. And it's every time you lose a breakwater in the ocean that protects the mainland, the permafrost and the tundra, well, more of that is exposed. As.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: as the waves hit or the ice during the storms in the fall and early fall and right to the middle fall, where the ice is like a bulldozer that comes in and breaks up the coastline, and then the water just does the rest of washing it away. So it's our whole coastline is being changed.

We've seen some of the land become islands now, where they were connected.

Hon. Dan Vandal: OK.

Randall Pokiak: at one time. Or some of them are, have in the lowest (inaudible) broken away and now they're just about, you know, there's some islands created out there just offshore.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Right. And of course that's affecting the traditional hunting and fishing?.

Randall Pokiak: Well, you know our knowledge about our past and what goes on, you can hang your hat on the information. But starting in the mid-seventies, we started seeing a lot of impact of climate change that was developing. Even before that ozone layer was announced, as harvesters, we started seeing evidences of a change going on, the temperature outside and it just escalated from there. I mean, it just didn't.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: (crosstalk). And we, and in the seventies, when the industry was here and the movements of wildlife was being affected, impacted by what was going on in our area, we thought that, you know, they were to blame for that. And they are to blame for part of it, and a lot of it, because the government and the oil companies went and did whatever they wanted. There was a lot of.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: critical habitats of wildlife. Our area is really wildlife rich. That's why our people have had this as our homeland. And within our Inuvialuit settlement region, as these guys, these young people said in their film, they showed the whole area. That's the whole Inuvialuit settlement region, to me, is like you have 13 sub-regions, where the environment is totally different, one from the other. You go, just like going in a house, you're going into one room and then another room. So the environment is divided up like that. And all that area is critical habitat for certain species.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: Like, all the species that come into our area don't concentrate in one location. They got their own habitats where their ecosystem has brought them to here and that has really affected, the climate change is really affecting their behaviour and their patterns. And now our traditional knowledge I said that we could rely on historically since the mid-seventies, it seems like we have to wait until the wildlife gets comfortable in the changes that's going on for them too.

You know, assuming we think that, you know, there's just change on us. You could imagine what these wildlife is actually going through.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: you know, to adjust to that climate change and what's going on. And I think it's really important to, because we're very close to the land environment and with the wildlife, and these wildlife environments sort of, when you're out in the land, sort of speaks to you, you know, what you're seeing, and it sort of gives you an idea of what they have to go through. And their behaviour patterns also is another indicator that, yeah, we have to wait, basically, until they adjust so we can readjust our harvesting of them.

I think that we're the first environmental monitors, you know, that people.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: rely on. Because we're out there and our life depends on it. I mean, a lot of people make decisions about, like the governments and the territories, all governments. They try to look after their responsibilities, but as harvesters and land people, you know, we live with it.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: And we live with it and we have to re-evaluate every year as to, you know, what we did find out this year? What did we found out the year before? What was it like 5 years ago? And then you start thinking about what does the, you know, next 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 15. You can go on and, what it.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah. Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: will look like for the next generations? And a lot of our population is growing in number and the environment will still provide our food security. And I think that's what we can rely. We can rely on stores and that and southern things coming in, but, I think when it boils down to it, we've still got resources here that we're trying to protect that will sustain us.

Hon. Dan Vandal: I take pride and I think it's a good thing that we have the youth involved because we need young people to be involved in the change that's necessary. So I thank you for the work that you've done, the work that you're going to do.

And I think it's important that, I mean, I'm talking to you from Winnipeg and of course the funding that was announced comes from the Government of Canada based in Ottawa, but the solutions have to come from the local community because the people that live there know the reality the best. So I think it's very positive that we have young people, we have Elders involved and that only through collective action and working together and involving the territorial governments and the federal government and Indigenous government of course, that we make sure we're going in the right direction. So I thank you for the work that you're doing.

Nathan Kuptana: Well, my question is what's the plan is for to stop the coastal erosion that is happening around our community? So our point is pretty much gone. People used to go there to fish every summer and people have to move their smokehouses to different areas. And I'm wondering what's the plan for the erosion on our coastal line.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Good question. And I think part of the funding that we've announced this morning is to make sure that we can move some of the people that are close to the coastline, that may be in some danger, to relocate them. I think the money, a lot of the money, will go for that. And some of the money will go to stabilization of the coastline, relying on local expertise on that. And as well, there's some of the funding that will go to alternative energy, to use solar energy, to rely more on solar energy to provide the energy that powers the local communities.

A lot of this has to do with our world using too much greenhouse gas or producing too much greenhouse gas, relying too much on fossil fuels. So part of the solution is lessening our reliance on fossil fuels, more on alternative energies and just continuing these sorts of conversations with and between the governments, governments and the people that live with the reality of what's happening.

So we need to continue this conversation. We need to monitor the work that is going to be done and how that's affecting the local hamlets and the local territory, and then continue to work together to try to solve this. So I'm the first to tell you that, you know, I certainly don't have the solutions but I think together, working together with some of the public service that are involved in these projects, that we're going to move forward. And I think we have to remain hopeful, we have to remain vigilant and make sure that we're going in the right direction together.

Nathan Kuptana: Is there any advice to give to the youth?.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah. My advice to the youth is to, you know, stay positive, stay engaged and really it's the territory that you live in is where you want to continue living, where you want to continue developing that relationship with nature, with the land, with the sea. And we really need your leadership and your engagement because you're really the future. So that's why I'm very honoured to speak to you. And I think we need to keep, you need to keep engaged, because this is a territory where you live and you want to keep living there. So you have a partner, the federal government, and we'll keep working together in a positive way to make the changes necessary.

Randall Pokiak: I'd like to just a couple of more minutes, please, and I will just give you an idea of what the question you asked and how can we help you.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah. Sure.

Randall Pokiak: to deal with. There's really no advice that we could give apart from the thoughts of our Elders, that we're starting to see become a reality, is, you know, we had thousands of people living here and all the evidence of them is gone because of erosion. All the old historical sites, burial sites. And we just got to look at the map in 1947 to ,49, where they were doing aerial surveys for DEW line stations, and we take a look at that same area, the coastline, you can see how much difference, how much land we've actually lost. So all the evidence of our people in those historical sites that I'm telling you about, they're all gone.

But we really appreciate now that the academic community, the scientists and all that, is their knowledge is also recognizing the knowledge, the traditional knowledge that we've brought, and they're working together and you can actually see, you know, you can come up with a plan. Like, for instance, like Fred said, Tuk here grew up pretty fast. And at that time, when there were developing communities, the government was a whole new governance. We didn't even, our Elders were just learning about the government. I mean, the government just.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: came in. And then we have to live under the government. And a community like Tuk, for instance, is real hard pressed for gravel. And the government, to save money, they stayed along the coastline. They developed the way you see Tuk now. And then the Elders, way back, when they said OK, well, you know, like, for the people that make a living off the land, we'll set a land aside. That's why we have Reindeer, what we call our subdivision called Reindeer Point. It's further away from the shoreline. So you know, they don't have to relocate, you know. That was 50 years ago. Now it's still there, and I think that, for the government, in order to help the community, you've got to take that into account, that, you know, you've got to locate further away from the shoreline.

So any community planning and expansion with the growth of our people in each of our settlement region communities, 6 of them, we can, you know, government has to really take that into account, that there's going to be big changes. Just like any other building that come up, they got a lifespan.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: Hospital, university, they got a lifespan. You've got to upgrade them. But I think the government has to, you know, I think we can help in trying to work with the present government instead of the government saying OK, we've got this much money to spend. Well, let's go a little further down the road and make a long-term plan.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yes. Good. Good idea.

Randall Pokiak: But we really appreciate everything that has happened. The youth, you know, and the connection that they had with their project, with the climate change. Some of us have been involved with that program. And any way that we could help, like, there's always, you know, we have life experiences and they're the best practical experiences that you can learn from.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Yeah. Yeah.

Randall Pokiak: I really appreciate your time.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Good.

Nathan Kuptana: Thank you, Minister.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Thank you.

Candice Cockney: I'd just like to thank you and also thank the Elders and the youth for coming this morning. Yes.

Hon. Dan Vandal: Thank you so much. It's been great chatting with everybody.

Unidentified Female: Thank you.

Unidentified Male: Thank you.

Hon. Dan Vandal: See you in person soon. See you. See you. Bye-bye.

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