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Initiative Logos, Ecotrust Canada, 2022

Answering your biggest question

Initiative Logos, Ecotrust Canada, 2022

Hi there! It’s Shannon in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

I’m based in the Skeena Office, on the traditional territory of the Coast Ts’msyen people. This year, I want to share impactful stories with you from our work across the province and country.

I’d like to start off by answering the most common question I’m asked: What does Ecotrust Canada do? Here’s my best attempt. We’re problem solvers. The biggest problem we see right now is that the current economic system isn’t working. Sure, it may serve the interests of a select few in the short term, but a system that doesn’t meet the needs of most people, and the environment they depend on, ultimately fails everyone.

We work specifically with rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, places where climate change, environmental degradation, and our failing economic system are felt most acutely. We listen to the people and communities we work with. We explore solutions. We research. We test ideas — and put the best of those ideas into action. We see what works, and what doesn’t. And we keep trying until we see the first signs of meaningful, lasting, change starting to take root.

For over 25 years, Ecotrust Canada has been doing this type of work, demonstrating on the ground, and at sea, how we can work together to build an economy that meets our needs, such as housing, heating, food, and meaningful livelihoods, while taking care of the environment.

Now as the days get lighter, I want to share with you what I’m most excited for in 2022. We have five initiatives, and each one is trying to tackle a particular challenge with the communities they work most closely with.

Indigenous Home-Lands

There’s a serious challenge with housing in Indigenous communities right now — shortages, overcrowding, poor quality and inappropriate designs, and a lack of financial resources.

It’s complicated. There’s no one solution. We’re approaching the housing issue in diverse ways by supporting our partners with research, workshops, strategies, and planning for the future. For example, the Yuneŝit’in First Nation has signed a partnership agreement with us so we can work together to help build a housing strategy for their community. For Indigenous communities who we haven’t worked with yet, we are creating an online toolkit for housing and land governance practices so they can tackle housing challenges in new ways.

The big news this month is we’ve signed a partnership agreement with the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, on the Central Coast of BC. The agreement reflects our mutual excitement for exploring and implementing innovative solutions that address housing and homelands challenges.

This is going to be a year of growth for our Home-Lands initiative, as we expand our partnerships, grow our team, and establish an Indigenous Advisory Council to help guide our path moving forward.

Community Fisheries

Our most seasoned initiative takes many approaches toward the same goal — revitalizing the commercial fishing industry on the Pacific Coast so that it is managed by, and benefits, the coastal communities of the region. The challenges are complex, but at the core, federal fisheries policy does not serve our fish harvesters on the West Coast. We’re trying to change that with the Fisheries for Communities coalition and the hardworking fish harvesters who are fighting for their future. This year, with our partners, we’ll be working tirelessly to ensure the new federal Fisheries Minister listens and takes meaningful action.

As I mentioned, I live in Prince Rupert, a coastal community where we do a lot of our fisheries work. Last year, I became an at-sea observer and collected scientific data aboard a crab boat. I plan on going out again this year to conduct one of our four data-collection trips for the crab fleet. We offer fisheries monitoring services on the North Coast for the Area A crab fleet and local salmon fisheries. We also provide dockside monitoring services on the West Coast of Vancouver Island for the Five Nations’ Fishery with Ha’oom Fisheries Society. The Society supports Ahousaht, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Hesquiaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in their Indigenous right to harvest and sell fish from their traditional territories.

Community Energy

Did you know that nearly one in five households in Canada experience energy poverty? We think it’s time to change outdated and ineffective policies and programs that fail to deliver to vulnerable households — because no one should have to choose between heating their home and feeding their family.

This is both a social and environmental issue. Buildings and homes account for 18% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Seeing the gaps, our Energy team is already filling them by connecting with Indigenous and settler communities, finding solutions to finance and install cleaner, more affordable, home energy systems. What’s new this year is a push to improve local access for home energy assessments through the EnerGuide program. In regions like the Central and North Coast of BC, there are no energy advisors available locally. Our Energy team is developing local training programs in these two regions, which will create new green jobs and open access to rebate programs for residents looking to transition over to cleaner energy systems.

Building off the success of the the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) community’s heat pump project — where over 130 homes have made the switch to cleaner energy systems and people are saving $1,500 a year while cutting 2,000 litres of diesel per home, per year — we’re supporting home energy retrofits in the ‘Na̲mg̲is and Quatsino Nations, and new partnerships with the Hupačasath and Tla’amin Nations. If your community is interested in learning more, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the Energy team.

Climate Innovation

There are deep pervasive issues behind the climate crisis we’re experiencing today. When I asked our Climate team to explain the root of their work it’s this: develop and deliver new tools that centre Indigenous and settler communities in addressing climate change. But what does that mean exactly?

There is value in our forests — but not just from logging them. The Climate team is supporting communities in unlocking that value through carbon finance, such as offsets. Offsets are a specific tool to generate revenue for communities from the activities they take on the land, to get, and keep carbon out of the atmosphere. Leaving a healthy tree rooted in the ground, for example, is one way to keep carbon from releasing and contributing to climate change. We’ve done this work in the Cheakamus Community Forest in BC, and we’ve been working with communities in the Northeast Superior Region of Ontario to help them develop a carbon finance project. This year, we are taking the exciting step of developing a full project proposal that the First Nations of the region can use to influence forest companies and the provincial government to adopt more climate friendly forest projects in the 1.5-million-hectare Missinaibi forest.

Another new initiative involves working with communities in the Northwest Territories where they could be recognized for the critical stewardship role they play over millions of hectares of some of Canada’s most important carbon landscapes. Our work with these communities will be one of the first tests for how carbon finance can support communities in geographies dominated by taiga and tundra, as opposed to forest.

Food Systems

Northwest BC, from Smithers to Prince Rupert, has an abundance of local agricultural and aquaculture potential. We see so many small-scale solutions happening independently in this region, and our Northwest Food Systems initiative is looking to close those gaps as we build a stronger local food network together.

Last year, from outside my office window, I watched as an empty parking lot was transformed into a vibrant urban farm, which the Metlakatla First Nation honoured with the name, Sndoyntga Lax Kx’een ada Maxłaxaała. Community members would walk by or through the farm with curiosity, excitement, and ideas. In the coming months, the Food Systems team is moving the farm to another location to make room for new beds dedicated to Ts’msyen community members, and other projects we are working on.

And this spring, we’re helping to start a farm in the sea! The first kelp seeds are going into the Regenerative Ocean Farming Project with Metlakatla First Nation, Ecotrust Canada, and GreenWave. Farming kelp can help reverse the effects of ocean acidification and create healthy ecosystems for fish and shellfish. We’re eager to test out food product opportunities for kelp with Ts’msyen communities who have been harvesting seaweed from time immemorial.

There’s a lot to get stoked about this year at Ecotrust Canada. I’ll keep you in the loop each month through the newsletter, and weekly on our social media. Thank you for joining us!

Shannon Lough, Communications Manager, at work (Ecotrust Canada)

Shannon Lough | Manager of Communications and Engagement