Yukon First Nations declare climate emergency

Leaders of the First Nations in Yukon have signed a declaration stating that climate change is an emergency, and requires immediate action.

Indigenous leaders sign declaration stating climate change requires immediate action

'Climate change is real,' said Yukon's regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, Kluane Adamek, centre. She spoke at a news conference in Whitehorse on Tuesday, with Emily McDougall, AFN Yukon regional climate change co-ordinator, and Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, was speaking at a news conference in Whitehorse on Tuesday when he was interrupted by a loud fire alarm, elsewhere in the building.

"It's a climate emergency!" Tizya-Tramm said. 

He was joking, but it was a pointed joke — the news conference was all about how Yukon First Nations agree that climate change is an emergency, and that it requires immediate action. Tizya-Tramm and other Yukon Indigenous leaders had just signed a formal declaration saying as much.

"We know in Kluane territory, Vuntut Gwitchin, Kwanlin Dün First Nation, we know that climate is being experienced in our communities more than anywhere else around the world," said Kluane Adamek, Yukon regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

"Climate change is real. We know that as northerners, every single one of us — Indigenous or non-Indigenous — we know it's real. We all have to respond. The time for action is now."

The signed declaration capped off a multi-day meeting on climate action in Whitehorse for Yukon Indigenous leaders. It was hosted by the AFN and the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN), and paid for with $250,000 from Ottawa's Climate Action Fund.

The climate change declaration is intended to "set the foundation" for an action plan, according to a news release from the AFN and CYFN. 

It follows similar declarations over the last year, from the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation, the City of Whitehorse, and the Yukon government.

The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation, the City of Whitehorse, and the Yukon government have made similar climate emergency declarations. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"It is so important that the world understand what an Indigenous worldview to climate change looks like," Adamek said. "And from a Yukon regional perspective, that means looking to Yukon First Nations to continue to guide that work,"

Emily McDougall, AFN's Yukon regional climate change co-ordinator, said the Whitehorse gathering brought together some diverse perspectives.

She said the discussions covered everything from food security to education and wellness.

"It was very inspiring to see youth come together, and elders, and be able to share openly and to learn from one another," McDougall said.

"We can't heal Mother Nature until we start healing with ourselves. So I think that was a really core foundation of this declaration."

With files from Jane Sponagle