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Engineers Canada calls for climate vulnerability assessments for northern infrastructure


mountain viewIn an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs on November 19, 2018, Engineers Canada called for climate vulnerability assessments to be carried out on northern, remote, and Indigenous infrastructure projects.

As part of its study on northern infrastructure projects and strategies, Annette Bergeron, Engineers Canada President, and David Lapp, Manager, Globalization and Sustainable Development, appeared before the committee to discuss the engineering profession’s efforts to safeguard Canada’s northern infrastructure in the face of a changing climate.

“Although the frequency of climate-related disasters is expected to increase, northern, remote, and Indigenous communities are far from prepared to adequately withstand climate-related risks,” Bergeron told the committee as part of her prepared remarks. “This stems not only from inadequate national climate data but also from the lack of consistent assessment procedures to properly address climate risks to infrastructure.”

Engineers Canada therefore recommended to the committee that climate vulnerability assessments be carried out on northern, remote, and Indigenous infrastructure projects to inform and prioritize adaptation actions that address potential risks associated with a changing climate. In particular, Engineers Canada encourages the federal government to adopt assessment and prevention tools as a condition for funding approvals across all federal departments that own and/or operate infrastructure. Moreover, Engineers Canada urged the federal government to make climate risk assessments an integral part of environmental impact assessments for northern, remote, and Indigenous infrastructure projects.

Bergeron told the committee that Engineers Canada’s PIEVC Protocol is an example of a tool that could, and has been used in northern, remote, and Indigenous communities to assess and enhance the resilience of infrastructure. In fact, the Protocol has recently been applied to select northern and remote infrastructure projects, including Yellowknife’s Highway 3, three northern airports in Churchill, Inuvik, and Cambridge Bay, and water and wastewater infrastructure in Moose Factory and on the Mohawk Akwesasne Reserve.

This last assessment saw Engineers Canada collaborate with the community and with the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation to develop a First Nations toolkit that incorporates climate risk assessments as part of Indigenous community asset management plans.

“We strongly believe that the federal government must work to build the capacity for Indigenous communities to assess, plan, and manage their infrastructure,” Bergeron said in her testimony.