The year ahead is brimming with projects from our five initiatives — Climate Innovation, Community Fisheries, Indigenous Homelands, Community Energy, and Food Systems. Below I’ve tried to paint a mini portrait on what’s to come in 2023, and the projects we’re already knee-deep in.
We are laying some of the groundwork with Indigenous communities who want to preserve and restore their lands through carbon finance projects. This month, we published Advancing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas through Carbon Financing, a paper that takes a close look at the opportunities and challenges associated with using carbon finance mechanisms to support Indigenous-led conservation.
Over the next few months, we’re developing a Forest Carbon Community Toolkit website for First Nations. It’s a web app that will help Nations determine the feasibility of a carbon project on their specific land base.
From the West Coast docks of the Pacific to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, we are working with our partners to advance fisheries policy so that it better serves the social, cultural, and economic needs of fish harvesters, First Nations, and coastal communities. This month, the team is working with the Fisheries for Communities Network to facilitate the third Fisheries for Communities Gathering. The Gathering will be a critical opportunity for attendees to advocate together for the change needed to revitalize sustainable fisheries on the BC Coast. The gathering for fish harvesters, community, and fisheries organizations, is being held on Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ territories, also known as Victoria, BC.
Then, as the fisheries season kicks off, our South Coast and North Coast Fisheries teams are providing dockside and at-sea observer services to serve local First Nations and commercial fish harvesters. Collecting timely and accurate data through our observer program is an essential part of achieving environmental sustainability in the commercial fishing industry.
First off, we’d like to introduce Ashli Akins as our new Director for this initiative. Anthony Persaud has stepped down from the role but remains close, offering his support as a Senior Advisor. Ashli is a National Geographic Explorer who joined the initiative last year while completing her Ph.D. on how to safeguard cultural heritage in an era of rapid economic change. Her wealth of knowledge and energetic leadership will benefit this initiative that partners with First Nations seeking to develop culturally appropriate housing strategies on their lands.
After launching the beta version of the Housing and Homelands Toolkit we are looking to support communities in implementing the toolkit’s resources to meet their housing needs. In the Yukon, we are working with three First Nations to research the possibility of having a housing supply chain cooperative in the southwest region of the territory. With a few practical tools and methodologies under our belt, built with our long-term partners in the Tŝilhqot’in with Yuneŝit’in and Xeni Gwet’in, the Indigenous Homelands initiative is open to working with new communities in 2023. Reach out here.
Our Energy team is busy planning the first-ever Energy Justice Forum in Canada this April. Attendees will explore the latest research, statistics, and lived experiences on the issue of energy insecurity in British Columbia. With policymakers in the same room as impacted communities, subject experts, and advocates, we’re hoping this will draw more attention to the policy changes needed to ensure that all British Columbians have access to clean, affordable energy and safe, climate-resilient homes.
In 2023, we’re wrapping up a flagship project and launching new ones. While we support the ongoing installation of heat pump retrofits in four First Nations communities, we anticipate completing the Heat Pump Project in the Haíɫzaqv Nation, a project we’ve been partnering on since 2017! As we cross the finish line there will be around 300 homes in Wágḷísḷa (Bella Bella, BC) that have moved off inefficient heating systems, like oil furnaces or baseboard heaters, saving homeowners around $1,500 a year in utility costs — and eliminating over 1,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. In addition, the Energy Advisor Training Program will end this year, with the aim of having all seven Indigenous participants certified to inspect homes and guide homeowners in improving energy efficiency and accessing funding for undertaking energy retrofits for their homes. This group of newly certified EAs will provide access to EnerGuide home evaluations in underserved rural, remote, and Indigenous communities across coastal BC.
This year, the Energy team has been invited to work in Prince Rupert, on Coast Ts’msyen territory, to assess retrofit opportunities, barriers, and financing options for residents. This stage was completed in the Regional District of Mount Waddington, on North Vancouver Island, last year, leading to a new program that will help residents access rebates and financing to make renovations like insulating their home or installing a heat pump. The goal is to lower energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving home comfort and health.
Last year, we partnered with Metlakatla Nation on the Regenerative Ocean Farm and tested two long lines of sugar kelp with surprising results — we harvested 1,560 pounds of kelp from the ocean. With lessons learned, and more training, we can’t wait to see what we can grow with Metlakatla and the crew this year.
The downtown urban farm in Prince Rupert has moved to Roosevelt Elementary School where they are developing a community garden space. Our food work this year will involve the school district and beyond in our efforts to grow seed stock for the Northwest Seed Library, and seedlings for local growers.
With all this hands-on work, we’re taking a step back to ensure our efforts are moving toward equity. In January, we began the process of building an equity planning tool for food systems work in Prince Rupert, in partnership with other community organizations and institutions. This project aims to build the capacity of local governments and food system stakeholders, to embed and measure progress on social justice and decolonizing efforts in food planning.
Coming up this spring, we are holding another pop-up market in Prince Rupert where we will have seedlings, seeds, and seaweed fertilizer (thank you Regenerative Ocean Farm crew) to help residents get ready for the growing season. Local vendors are invited to take part in this outdoor market that proved to be a joyous success last summer, even in the torrential downpour. We will be ready for all conditions for this spring market.
There’s so much more, that we’re doing this year to prove the possible. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter — you can do that here — and I look forward to sharing more stories and project updates with you soon.
[January 30, 2023]