Having partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to build capacity regarding flood mitigation for First Nations in Manitoba, both for Southern Chief Organization communities and MKO communities chronically affected by flooding. While we have been lucky with the levels this year, it looked to be a bad year for flooding when we started as ground saturation, lake levels and Manitoba Hydro reservoir levels were all at or near record highs.
In order to address this, we held a Flood Forum in Ashern on Febuary 14th to bring all the affected communities and related support agencies to the same table to go over what services they offer. It also allowed FN communities to let the relevant groups know what was required, what past grievances were and make the connections to begin to address them.
To follow up on the Flood Forum, we then visited every community identified as at risk to speak to each Chief and Council as to their individual level of risk, what emergency plans were in place and what they needed from us to help. Thankfully the flood levels were not as severe as originally anticipated and the communities are now on their way to returning home, we will now be moving to addressing the mold and restoration issues caused by the flooding that did occur.
Mold is a serious problem facing First Nations. With traditional restoration being both expensive and time consuming, we are exploring cheaper, easier and faster methods of removing mold in homes.
In partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, we have begun to treat mold infected homes with sulphur evaporators. Much like an industrial sized incense burner filled with sulphur pellets rather than incense, they are allowed to run and fill the affected areas with sulphur smoke.
The sulphur smoke alters the Ph of the surfaces that mold grows on rendering the surfaces inhospitable to mold, killing the mold and their spores on contact. While this is a toxic substance that should not be inhaled by humans, similar to fumigating a home for bugs the residents should not be present while this process in ongoing. However as many affected homes get that way due to flooding, it should be easy enough to schedule the sulphur burning to happen before evacuees are returned home or to remove the inhabitants for the short duration required.
Previous and Ongoing Environment Inivitatives
Resolution #16 – Environmental Stewardship
The Chiefs of southern First Nations passed a resolution in environmental stewardship at the September 2004 Chiefs-in-Summit in Dakota Tipi First Nation.
THEREFORE THE CHIEFS-IN-SUMMIT RESOLVE: that First Nations must participate as active partners in any public or private environmental stewardship programs and initiatives; and
THEREFORE IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED: that all southern First Nations perform their own environmental research and studies in regards to environmental stewardship in their traditional territories; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED: that the Grand Chief support and lobby for financial support from the federal and provincial governments to participate fully in all environmental stewardship programs and initiatives.
Southern First Nations Environmental Strategy
Further to Resolution #16, the SCO developed the Southern First Nations Environmental Strategy, which was accepted at a special meeting in Winnipeg in February 2005. Every southern First Nation lies within the watershed of Lake Winnipeg. The Environmental Strategy, therefore, was guided by a focus on providing solutions to Lake Winnipeg environmental problems and included the following recommendations:
- Develop and implement environmental education and awareness initiatives in First Nation communities;
- Ensure that the traditional and local perspectives of First Nations are included in the processes aimed at better understanding the lake. To that end, begin the formal gathering of this knowledge to supplement the scientific research currently being conducted on Lake Winnipeg;
- Assess the effectiveness of First Nation wastewater facilities with respect to nitrogen and phosphorus discharges and take action to upgrade substandard systems;
- Increase the capacity with respect to First Nation environment expertise and organization in Manitoba, especially as it concerns the protection of water and water-related resources, through the establishment of a First Nation Water Protection Council.
First Nations Water Protection Council
The First Nation Water Protection Council was established by Resolution at the March 2005 summit in Dakota Tipi First Nation. It is intended to serve as a new mechanism to assist communities in successfully moving toward measurable improvements and meaningful results in the environmental quality of their local environments. This council is representative of the southern First Nation tribal areas and is mandated to:
- Represent Southern First Nations interests and exercise jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to water and water resources;
- Direct the implementation of the Environmental Strategy;
- Serve as a communication link between First Nation communities, governmental agencies, the scientific community and the public; and to
- Establish a technical advisory committee.
Draft Terms of Reference
- Provide leadership, identify key existing and emerging water issues, and support stewardship actions.
- Promote awareness and education, encourage input, and advocate First Nation positions on matters respecting water quality and protection of water resources.
- Monitor water quality research and trends, identify information gaps, and develop strategies to address existing gaps.
- Assist and coordinate the development of water management plans for First Nation territories.
- Provide input and advise on developments or activities that have, or may have, a negative impact on water quality.
- Communicate with other tribal, organizational and governmental bodies at local, national, and international levels on water-related matters.
- Participate in the development of public policies and management plans to ensure the protection and sustainable use of water resources.
Chief Larry Barker – Hollow Water
Chief John Spence – Sandy Bay First
Chief Billyjo Delaronde – Pine Creek
Chief David Crate – Fisher River
Chief Emery Stagg – Dauphin River
Chief Debbie Chief – Brokenhead
Current Projects Under the First Nations Water Protection Council
Strategic Water Management Project (The Water Atlas)
This project involves the development of a water-related database using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology. The goal of this project is to provide a tool for communities to use in their efforts to protect and manage their water resources while recognizing the cultural importance of water to First Nation peoples.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Provide an underlying framework based on traditional, local, scientific knowledge and aerial imagery, within which communities will develop their respective water ‘inventories’;
- Provide guidance to communities, as needed, through the Technical Advisory Committee;
- Ensure consistency over the long-term in methodologies, technologies, and in data collection, archiving, management and accessibility among southern First Nations;
- Develop a GIS database to manage regional and community data related to water, water management, and water protection. This GIS will be accessible to all southern First Nation communities via the internet.
Fish Habitat Program
The SCO is working together with the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) on this project. The goal is to assist communities to protect, recover and manage their fish habitat.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Identify regional and local fish habitat management issues;
- Facilitate the flow if information in order to support greater involvement of First Nations in fish habitat management, and in policy development and implementation;
- Provide assistance to First nations undertaking fish habitat management activities;
- Provide education and training opportunities related to fish habitat to First Nations youth.