I attended, along with Sophie and J.F., two OURANOS seminars 20 November 2008. Both seminars were focused on hydrology and climate change. The first, given by Hydro-Quebec, explained their research and modeling of future hydrology in Quebec under various climate change scenarios. The second was presented by two affiliated OURANOS scientists researching the impacts of climate change (especially rising water levels, changes in ice quantity and patterns, and erosion) on the St. Lawrence shoreline.
Related to these seminars was the OURANOS seminar and article about participatory climate monitoring in Nunavik communities along the Hudson Bay shoreline. When I thought about these Quebec-climatic themed topics together, especially with respect to Hydro-Quebec, I started wondering about the history and future of indigenous land rights in Quebec. Hydro-Quebec, with government support mind you, has displaced countless native communities through the building of hydroelectric dams and associated flooding of surrounding lowlands. While the Cree are likely the best recognized community in Quebec, there are many more, including Huron, Micmac, Abenaki, Algonquin, Mohawk, Montagnais, and Naskapi. Many of these communities have been displaced and neglected, and are now face a serious threat from northern climatic shifts (such as declining safe ice routes, as described in the circulated article).
It is commonly believed that the most marginalized people in the world will feel the affects of climatic changes first and most severely. This is in part due to higher reliance on natural services for substance living, but also because the wealth required for building and organizing environmental disaster relief systems (i.e. reinforcing coastline storm breakers, evacuation procedures, and backup sources of clean water if wells are flooded or contaminated) is concentrated outside of these communities and/or their respective countries. In the case of Canada, we are a wealthy country that fails to allocate equal rights and services to native communities. These communities live in the periphery zone; outside the privileges most people would associate with be Canadian. We live in the core, in Montreal, Ottawa, and smaller southern communities which are the core political, economic and social regions in Canada. The ridge between core and periphery is pronounced and an embarrassment to Canada. I attended a lecture given by Stephen Lewis two years ago at Dalhousie University, Halifax, during which Mr. Lewis explained an experience he had while discussing human rights violation at United Nations meeting. He recounted how, out of shear embarrassment over the way native peoples were treated in Canada, he eventually refused speaking out against other countries for human rights violations. Personally I think that is a huge statement, considering the conflicts, genocides, imprisonments and extreme poverty that exist in various countries. I point I am hoping to make is that many native communities in Quebec and Canada have and continue to be afflicted with human rights violations, some living in a third world situation within Canadian borders.
Climate change and all associated environmental shifts are predicted to increase and worsen worldwide, with northern areas being the hardest hit. It is my opinion that as climatic changes increasingly alter Northern environments (particularly temperature and hydrology) native human rights issues in Canada will be exacerbated. When researching and discussing climate change in Canada and Quebec, it will be important to assess the concerns, safety, and sustainability of northern native communities.