North

Federal environment minister to hold public town hall in Yellowknife park Monday

Catherine McKenna is meeting with the environment ministers from the three territories as well as with Aboriginal leaders from across the N.W.T., and members of the public.

Town-hall meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., outside in Somba K'e Park

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna is meeting with the public at 7:30 p.m. in Yellowknife at the Somba K'e Park civic plaza. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

The federal minister of the environment is in Yellowknife today to talk about dealing with the effects of climate change in the North.

Catherine McKenna is meeting with the environment ministers from the three territories: Wally Schumann from the N.W.T., Wade Istchenko from Yukon and Joe Savikataaq from Nunavut.

She then plans to meet with Aboriginal leaders from across the N.W.T. Monday afternoon, followed by a town hall meeting at 7:30 p.m. in Somba K'e Park in Yellowknife.

The aim of the meeting, which will also include Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod, is to get community members involved in finding ways to combat climate change and deal with its effects, something the federal government is trying to make a priority.

In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the premiers of every province and territory. They agreed to create a national climate change plan that includes an agreement-in-principle for a carbon-pricing mechanism.

After the meetings, Trudeau said that for the past 10 years, there had been no federal leadership on the climate change file. His government is hoping to change that. In fact, it renamed many of its ministries, including changing the Department of Environment to the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Climate change in the North

Climate change has certainly been on the mind of Northerners, especially as thawing permafrost becomes a serious problem in some communities. 

In Jean Marie River, N.W.T., community members are worried about their country food. Scientists and hunters say diet is threatened by thawing permafrost, which is gradually turning lichen-rich forested and shrubbed areas — where caribou come to feed — into wetlands, even lakes and ponds.

And last year, scientist warned of a potential flash flood due to thawing permafrost. 

Steve Kokejl, a permafrost scientist with the N.W.T. government, warned of a potentially "catastrophic lake drainage" at a remote lake just south of the treeline, about 20 kilometres away from Fort McPherson, where thawing permafrost was encroaching on the banks of a small lake. 

The catastrophe turned out to be minor, and no people were in the area when the lake's side gave way. 

The public meeting in Yellowknife Monday, which will include discussions on permafrost and any other environmental problem concerning Northerners, is one of a series of climate change town halls being held in cities across the country.

With files from Richard Gleeson, Alyssa Mosher