THUNDER BAY - First Nation communities from across Northern Ontario are looking at ways to both respect the natural world and benefit from the economic opportunities in a way that is sustainable.
Last week, 12 tribal councils and more than 115 delegates participated in the 8th Annual Northern Ontario First Nations Environment Conference in Thunder Bay.
Environmental professionals from communities across the north gathered to discuss issues facing the region and how to work collaboratively with industry partners and the government to move forward on resource-based projects.
“The environmental field is very diverse so we try to cater to all the professionals in our communities,” said Lindsey Jupp, environmental technologist with Matawa First Nation Management. “We have waste management, environmental sustainability, and engaging opportunities. There are a variety of workshops about landfill operations and maintenance, resource development, invasive species, source water protection. A whole variety of different stories we would like to have shared across our communities.”
The theme of this year’s conference was engaging communities in environmental sustainability.
Throughout the two days, delegates participated in other workshops addressing issues such as composting, community based-monitoring methods, and how northern communities can adapt to climate change.
“Environment is a large part of life in the north,” Jupp said. “You’re faced with a lot of big resource development projects that are not always safe for the environment. When you live off the land and eat and drink off the land, you want to make sure those resources are safe for yourself and your future generations.”
Delegates also participated in hands-on learning opportuntites through field trips to Mission Island Marsh Conservation Area, the DeBruin Greenhouse, and the Thunder Bay Waste and Recycling Facility.
According to Jupp, First Nation communities want to find ways to benefit economically off the land but protect it as well.
“We’ve seen a lot of it disappear in the southern regions where there is more populations,” she said. “In the North we have a lot of access to resources and we want to maintain them in a clean and safe way.”
“There are a lot of different projects happening in each community. Funding is difficult to maintain for a lot of grassroots projects. We are all faced with the same issues. We want to see a way to succeed in overcoming those challenges. We can share our stories of how the project came to start, what challenges we face during the project, and hopes that it can be replicated across the board.”