September 25, 2017

2017 Ontario Climate Symposium – Workstream E: Indigenous Perspectives, Cities + Transportation

OCC 2017 climate symposium logo

Session 1E: Indigenous Perspectives on Ontario Climate Policy


  • Indigenous communities are working toward climate change capacity building.
  • Most indigenous communities want more freedom of self-determination to implement mitigation strategies.



This panel explored the development of strategies and policy for climate change from the perspective of Indigenous people in Ontario. Topics discussed included the impacts of climate change on First Nations lands as well as climate change adaptation efforts undertaken by Indigenous communities.

The first speaker, Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox from Nishnawbe Aski First Nation, addressed the way climate change has been affecting traditional First Nations lands. Fox, who grew up in the Severn River area near Hudson’s Bay, recalled participating in traditional geese hunts.

On a recent return to Port Severn, Fox was struck by the changes brought on by climate change. Roads his community used to rely on are appearing later in the season, forcing residents to adapt to maintain their livelihoods.

Fox has been working to raise awareness of the issue, and to effect change.

Kerry-Ann Charles, from Georgina Island First Nation, presented on an ongoing project aimed at building a community-based approach to adapting to climate change in indigenous communities. Charles, a member of the Chippewa community on Georgina Island in Lake Simcoe, has spent the past eight years working as an environmental coordinator.

Her community has been awarded three years of funding to work on adaptation efforts, and is now helping other First Nations communities do the same. She emphasized the importance of being proactive, rather than reactive to climate change planning.

Kyle Powys Whyte from Michigan State University focused his talk on food security in Indigenous communities, offering an overview of climate change policy in the United States.

Kyle Powys Whyte presents at the 2017 Ontario Climate Change Symposium

Funding  for indigenous climate change preparedness has been relatively fragmented, he noted.  There is a need to bring agencies and people together, and to combine scientific and political knowledge in a way that resonates with tribal councils.

In addition, Whyte emphasized the importance of lobbying and congressional hearings, and argued that Indigenous communities need to be treated as equivalent to states.

Rod Whitlow, an Energy Policy Analyst from the Chiefs of Ontario, concluded the session with a discussion of environmental capacity building in indigenous communities.

The Chiefs of Ontario operates through collective decision-making across indigenous communities. Whitlow has been focused on raising awareness about climate change emergency preparedness based on traditional First Nations knowledge and practices, including a respect for the spiritual value of land.

One of Whitlow’s main takeaways from recent events such as the First Ministers’ Meeting with national indigenous leaders and the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change is that the indigenous community clearly wants and needs to be more involved in the decision-making process.


Session 2E: Advancing Local Climate Action through Community Mobilization and Collective Action


  • Grassroots activism can use the power of social media to pressure governments to take action.
  • Coordination between municipalities can lead to significant GHG reductions.



This session featured experts from diverse sectors who share a desire to see Canadian municipalities take a leadership role on climate issues. The discussion focused on the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches to climate action at the community level, as well as the need for municipal-level coordinated action on climate change, the use of social capital to build alliances, and community-led climate activism.

Robin Goldstein from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities spoke about ways municipalities can partner to develop coordinated climate action.

She cited the recent Climate Action Plan in the Region of Waterloo as an example. With the participation of 10-plus organizations in the Waterloo region, this initiative has eliminated more than 40,000 thousand of greenhouse gas emissions.

Gideon Forman, a policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation, shared some of his organization’s experiences with climate action. Climate change mitigation is a priority for the foundation, with a special emphasis on building a grassroots culture around renewables.

An example: the foundation has been supporting Oxford County, Ontario’s plan to be 100% renewable by 2050 — mainly by using its social capital and experience to strategize on media relations and facilitating meetings with governments.

Matthew Chapman, founding member of the Montreal Climate Coalition, presented on the potential of community-level collective action on climate change.

While there are more than 3,600 local governments in Canada, only 152 have set emissions reduction targets — and only three have committed to becoming 100% renewable by 2050. One way to improve these numbers, he said, is to promote citizen-led local community action.

Chapman outlined number of ways citizen-led groups can take action on climate change by employing online collaborative tools (like Slack and Strikingly) and taking advantage of the millions of dollars in available funding. Such strategies are already being used to cultivate “climate hubs”: community-led groups that pressure governments to take action. LEARN MORE ABOUT CLIMATE HUBS.


Session 3E: How People and Goods Move – A Decade of Evolution and
 a Vision for the Late 2020s


  • New transportation technologies will be a huge component of emissions reductions.
  • Shifting freight shipment from trucks to rail can make a huge difference.
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure is a significant barrier to wide adoption.



Chaired by Judy Farvolden from the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute, this panel offered expert perspectives on the future of transportation in Ontario. Topics of discussion included supply chain transportation, public transit and disruptive new technologies in microtransit.

It is expected that by 2020 the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in Ontario will increase by a factor of four. Cara Clairman from Plug’n Drive spoke about the work her organization has been doing on EV promotion.

Plug’n Drive has four areas of focus: educating the public and building awareness through test drives and employee engagement programs; Second, promoting the integration of charging station infrastructure in Canada; researching ongoing industry trends in the EV market, such as cost and sales; and work on government policies designed to make choosing an EV easier for consumers.

Plug’n Drive’s main goal is to increase EV market share to 5% by 2020.

Josipa Petrunic, from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium, spoke about recent advancements in transit, including low to zero emissions buses, new lightweight materials, autonomous vehicles, and sophisticated data analytics. She stressed the importance of pushing governments to incorporate such innovative technologies.

Chantale Després from Canadian National Rail (CN) argued for shifting freight shipping from trucking to railway —  a move that could reduce green house emissions by 75%. This, in combination with new energy-efficient locomotives could make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.

Sasha Sud from MaRs Data Catalyst closed out the session with a presentation focused on the concept of “microtransit” — defined as “shared public/private sector transportation offerings that offer fixed or dynamically allocated routes and schedules in response to individual or aggregate consumer demand”

Examples of this include ridesharing survices like Uber and Lyft, car-sharing services like Zip Car and Autoshare, and other services related to the so-called “sharing economy”.