New report details Indigenous youth’s climate solutions

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – Young Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, but their voices are often excluded from discussions around solutions, according to the latest report in Deloitte Canada’s Voices of Indigenous Youth Leaders on Reconciliation series. 

The report, entitled “Reconciling our relationships to preserve Mother Earth for future generations,” is the fourth volume in the global consulting firm’s series of surveys, which are based on priorities identified by Indigenous youth leaders aged 18 to 29 in interviews over the past two years.

Siera Hancharyk, who’s from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, Ontario but now lives in Toronto, is one of the youths who was interviewed for the report. 

She told Alberta Native News that she spoke to the report’s authors for two hours a day over the course of the week, providing recommendations on how to “start caring for the land and how to get Indigenous people, especially youth, involved.” 

“The earth is crying out for help right now, and we need to start listening,” said Hancharyk.

The report focuses on “environmental reconciliation,” in which governments and the private sector assume responsibility for their “actions that have severed and continue to sever Indigenous communities from their lands (and consequently their traditional knowledge and practices),” the report reads, and move forward with Indigenous people as equal partners in finding solutions. 

Some statistics highlighted in the report demonstrate how disproportionately Indigenous people are impacted by the climate crisis. Indigenous people living on reserve are 18 times more likely than other Canadians to be evacuated from their homes in the event of a natural disaster, which are becoming increasingly common. 

Four-fifths of First Nations land is exposed to flooding, and 40 out of 41 locations surveyed are at the highest risk of flooding. 

The Haudenosaunee Tree of Peace is used in the report to illustrate “a vision for environmental reconciliation and peaceful co-existence—with each other and the environment—that can be realized when we undertake this work.”

Environmental reconciliation, according to this metaphor, begins at the root, with firmly established shared values and “diverse knowledges that are bridged.” The trunk represents actions taken in accordance with these values and knowledge, the report says, and the branches symbolize “balanced partnerships and effective cross-cultural collaboration.” 

The report is structured accordingly, divided into three parts—root, trunk and branches. 

One key recommendation from the report is the formation of advisory councils consisting of Indigenous youth, adults, Elders and leaders, who can collaborate with the private sector and different levels of government to implement reciprocal climate solutions. 

Hancharyk, speaking in the midst of a major Toronto heatwave, noted that solutions for the climate crisis rooted in reciprocity between the people and the land are “still not being properly addressed or brought to the table.”

“We had a high of 40 [degrees Celsius] the other day, and that’s unheard of for happening in June. Normally, that’ll happen in July, August, but not in June,” she said. 

Her backyard backs out onto a creek, which she’s noticed city workers spraying with pesticides lately.

“Normally, that’s where I would go and pick sweet grass,” she said. 

Hancharyk said she’s encouraged by growing Indigenous climate activism, “but they shouldn’t have to resort to that in order to be heard.”

Mitch Mercredi, Deloitte Canada’s director of nation building, spoke of the need to “amplify” the voices of Indigenous youth in particular, “because they’re inspired.”

“They are thinking of the next seven generations, but they need to be [at] the table,” he told this newspaper. 

Mercredi added that the perspectives of youth have historically been at the forefront of decision making in Indigenous communities. 

“Why has that changed? Because we’re taking this westernized approach where kids are not involved,” he said. 

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