Canada is Responding to the Need of Climate Justice in Indigenous Communities

Canada is Responding to the Need of Climate Justice in Indigenous Communities

Climate justice’s intention is to offer fair treatment and a balanced share of social, environmental and economic benefits across populations. Without a climate justice lens, climate legislation risks may worsen the already deficient gap between the wealthy creating more emissions and those of lower income limited in financing improved energy performance to access rebates or insurances.

Vulnerable populations impacted by resource extraction or development pressures end up with unequal shares of disaster relief and recovery assistance and potentially less involvement in the decision-making, political, and legal processes on climate change and the natural environment.

In particular, Canada’s indigenous communities experience 1 in 4 adults (Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit) and 4 in 10 children living in poverty. In Canada’s 2016 census, 1,673,785 people were identified as Indigenous, 4.9% of the national population. Urban areas lack traditional supports and have higher costs of living in confronting climate change. When governments align with corporate interests, Indigenous communities are challenged with issues such as existing or proposed pipelines crossing their lands, pipeline leaks contaminating water, and landfills and incinerators near reserves. More to the west, there are divides regarding the benefits of resource development royalties from oil and gas development, versus rejecting fossil fuel dependence. In Ontario, barriers include education, employment, social services, and housing.

Indigenous communities, which are half the residents of the three Canadian northern territories, are the most vulnerable to climate changes such as permafrost thaw, shifts in wildlife, plant diversity and food security. In addition, they are at-risk for possibly limited financial resources, health problems, access to technology and institutional services, transportation (winter roads), water quality, housing and energy costs, ability to maintain traditional knowledge, language and activities tied to their rights of hunting, fishing, and trapping, and access to complex regulatory frameworks.

The Canadian government has recognized that Indigenous and northern communities are particularly vulnerable due to factors such as remoteness and inaccessibility, cold climate, aging and inefficient infrastructure, and reliance on diesel for electricity generation and space heating.

Federal programs include the First Nation Adapt program which identifies region-specific infrastructure priorities most impacted by climate change related to sea level rise, flooding, forest fires, drought, fisheries and winter road failures. In 2016, monies included $20 million over 5 years. As of 2017, this became $25 million for 5 years particularly for flood risk. In 2016, a $3.8 million per year grant was directed to assessment of climate impacts and adaptation planning in the north. In 2017, an additional $5 million per year was allocated to climate adaptation measures for land management, flood-proofing, coastal erosion prevention, upgrades for housing, and wastewater/water facilities from permafrost degradation. In 2017, $31.4 million over 5 years was directed to long-term climate monitoring projects in Canada’s Paris Agreement response. The federal government also supports projects on human health and a changing climate, such as knowledge-building, and adaptation decision-making.

The Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity program, funds renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to reduce reliance on diesel for heating. In 2016, $10.7 million over two years was budgeted for renewable projects in off-grid Indigenous and northern communities. In 2017, this was amended to $53.5 million over ten years.

On May 21, 2020, Canada announced $75 million in new funding for Indigenous organizations providing services to Indigenous peoples in urban centres and First Nations peoples off reserve. This money is beyond an initial $15 million announced in March in response to COVID-19 bringing Canada’s Indigenous Community Support Fund to $380 million.


Activity Ranking:   *** Moving in the Right Direction

Climate change has a major impact on Indigenous culture, sovereignty, mental wellness and livelihoods as increased risks impact families and their children’s ability to learn from Elders a way of life being steadily compromised. Federal policies are increasingly generating grants that speak to monitoring and mitigation, and community driven solutions.

Take Action:

To request action, please contact Ministers Bennett and Wilkinson, with the following message:

Unprecedented rates of year-round sea ice loss, ocean acidification, temperature rising, melting permafrost, extreme weather events and severe coastal erosion are documented undermining our Indigenous communities in the north to gain food security and a sense of identity. It is important these communities have a part in all stages of decision-making. Our response to the Paris Agreement promises to integrate community-level climate change data collection, risk assessment planning and flood plain mapping with traditional Indigenous practices. Please work with our Indigenous communities where they are trying to protect their lands from harmful policies or industries destroying their environment by ending fossil fuel subsidies and gaining a zero-carbon economy as projected by 2050.


The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Mail:  House of Commons, Justice Building, Room 106, Ottawa ON  K1A 0A6
Telephone:  1 613 995-9666

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
1 613 995-1225

We also invite True North Aid, to share and take action on our document with its associates. email and phone 1-226-444-3385.

For more information please email Climate Scorecard Canadian Country Manager:  Diane Szoller at

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