‘Damage has occurred’: NWT will be heard at climate conference

Bill Erasmus
Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.
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Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus is in Vancouver this week where he’ll meet with delegates from all forms of government to discuss climate change.

There, he’ll have a chance to voice indigenous concerns to Canadian leaders – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – ahead of a First Ministers’ Meeting.

The conference will mark the first follow-up to last year’s historic climate change summit in Paris, where Canada made a commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change is an issue of great concern for all Canadians and the Government of Canada is committed to working together with our partners to address it,” said Trudeau in a statement issued earlier this month.

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“The discussion will focus on the opportunity for Canada to become a leader in the global clean growth economy, and to responsibly deliver on our climate commitments while delivering real benefits for Canadians.”

Erasmus says it’s important for First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders to be in attendance. He also praised the Liberal government for taking a much firmer stance on climate change than their predecessors.

“We need to work together especially because this is related to land,” he said. “Our understanding is that anything related to climate change has to bring in our people.

“If you deny that and ignore that it exists like the former federal government under the Conservative regime, then you really have a tough time.”

Erasmus says there’s ‘grave concern’ amongst Northerners for the health of land and water in the NWT. He added that it’s incumbent upon Canada’s leaders to find a solution.

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“Damage has occurred,” he said. “The good thing is that we recognize this is man-made and that climate change is not a phenomenon of nature. It’s started by man, therefore man needs to find the answers.

“We are very pleased that the prime minister recognizes the authority of indigenous nations on such issues as climate change and global warming.”

Leaders will come together for two days of meetings starting Wednesday. NWT Premier Bob McLeod will also be in attendance.

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