New study shows B.C. Indigenous communities vulnerable to climate change risks | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New study shows B.C. Indigenous communities vulnerable to climate change risks

Flood damage to Highway 8 is so extensive, the road may have to be rerouted away from the Nicola River entirely.
Image Credit: Flickr/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

A new University of Waterloo is examining the effects of climate change on Canadian Indigenous communities, some of which in the Interior have yet to return after floods destroyed their homes in November.

The Shackan Indian Band is one of five bands in the Nicola Valley who comprise the Scw'exmx. In November 2021, flooding forced the small community near Spences Bridge to evacuate.

They’ve yet to return home as the Ministry of Transportation works to repair Highway 8, as sections were destroyed.

READ MORE: People on Highway 8 facing long-term disaster after B.C. flooding

Chief Arnold Lampreau said evacuees are still in Kamloops and Salmon Arm, as well as Merritt. None have been able to return home and he said some may never be able to return to their same homes due to future flood risks.

“The biggest challenge right now is convincing some of the low-lying members and even myself, I want to move. I’m not trusting the river. The egresses to get out are not there, some of our bridges washed out and so we’re looking at rip rap, diking and so forth and that’s going to be in the millions and millions of dollars. Are we going to spend that much money on there to revive some of our land? It may be worth going out and buying some new land.”

This comes after the Lytton Creel wildfire ripped through the region, destroying vegetation and contributing to the floods, he said.

Highway 8 repairs are going to be temporary to be able to move people, he said. The long plan is two to 10 years to rebuild that road, he said.

“There’s going to have to be some really hard decisions that have to be made,” Lampreau said. “Our people have gone through a lot this past year with the COVID, and the wildfires and then we had the discovery of the 215 (buried children) and then we've been the place of the flood.”

Indigenous communities are at higher risk of hardship from climate-change-caused flooding because of pre-existing socioeconomic vulnerability, according to the University of Waterloo study.

The study’s findings also reveal that factors influencing socioeconomic vulnerability in Indigenous communities include the legacy of colonization, attributes of race and ethnicity, income, built environment, elderly populations, education, occupation, family structure, and access to resources.

The study, led by University of Waterloo researcher Liton Chakraborty, found by measuring socioeconomic vulnerability to flooding provides valuable information to support Indigenous flood risk management planning.

Researcher Jason Thistlethwaite, a co-author of the study, said in Canada, there’s an incomplete picture of climate change risk as policy and resources often go towards cities and larger urban centres but don’t assess the socioeconomics situations of the people that live in them.

According to the study, British Columbia has the second-highest percentage of population exposed to flooding, in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. B.C. also has the highest number of hotspots for flood risks out of any province, as defined by the high level of social vulnerability and high exposure of residential properties and population to 100-year flood hazards.

READ MORE: Lytton Creek wildfire destroys structures, home northwest of Merritt

“What you’re seeing on the ground there is confirming the conclusions of the study, even though we didn’t look at each Indigenous community at that specific level, at the national level, we’re seeing such inequity exists,” Thistlethwaite said.

In rural areas, communities don’t have often have the same access to emergency services, he said.

The federal government needs to provide more resources to Indigenous communities to mitigate flood risks and consult with communities about what they think are solutions to manage the risk, he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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