By Jillian Rago
Health Canada states that First Nations communities will be some of the most vulnerable populations to the effects of climate change.
First Nations people are dependent on lake ice for their livelihood. It is used as transportation, to help gather food, and is a means for social interaction, to name a few. Unfortunately, there are several reports of lake ice breaking as a result of warming air temperatures. In many cases, the lake ice has broken while individuals are driving over it.
In an article written for the CBC, Sandy Lake First Nations had to close access to its roads after its crew got stuck in the lake ice. Another lake ice incident involved a First Nations elder, whose van broke through the lake ice. This and many others reports have sparked a movement to lobby the Canadian government to build more permanent roads in these northern communities. However, they have yet to begin construction on these roads.
Sapna Sharma – Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, YorkU lead a team of researchers to analyze the effect of warming winters on lake ice in 1.4 million Northern Canadian lakes. The research shows that ice covered lakes are shifting from annual winter ice cover, to intermittent ice cover. This means that over the years less lakes are covered with ice in the winter.
The growing number of lakes experiencing no ice cover, will result in drastic changes in lake ecosystems. Sharma states that the rapid warming of lakes will result in potentially degraded water quality, and the development of algal blooms. Algal blooms will also disrupt the populations of fish and wildlife in these lakes.
The disappearance of lake ice is a result of the effects of climate change. The result of losing lake ice will put not only thousands of people in Northern First Nations communities at risk, but also neighbouring countries relying on the lakes fresh water supply. Now more than ever, the government of Canada needs to take action against climate change.
“If we as a global community recognize climate change as an international issue, we can come together to prevent further damages to our environment.” - Sapna Sharma
Sharma states that voting is the number one thing individuals can do to help. She stresses the importance of voting individuals into office that see climate change as a serious and imminent issue.