UBCIC Calls for Urgent Climate Action as Wildfire Crisis Grows in NWT, BC, and Hawaii

News Release
August 17, 2023

UBCIC Calls for Urgent Climate Action as Wildfire Crisis Grows in NWT, BC, and Hawaii

(xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/ Vancouver, B.C. – August 17, 2023) The entire city of Yellowknife is under evacuation orders, and wildfire damage has destroyed the towns of Enterprise in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Lahaina in Hawaii. Thousands of people have been displaced, and there have been at least 111 deaths in Lahaina. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) calls on all governments to protect our lands, our peoples, and our future generations from further harm from the impacts of the climate crisis and recognize that drastically reducing emissions that are the major drivers of climate change such as fossil fuel extraction, must be prioritized.

UBCIC extends our heartfelt support to the communities in BC and Alberta that have already been impacted by wildfires, including Lytton and Cranbrook, the people of Lahaina, Hawaii, and the continued devastation that the peoples in the NWT and Lower Similkameen Indian Band are currently facing.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President stated, “Mother Earth is giving us a loud wake-up call. Every day this summer, communities in BC have been engulfed in flames, and wildfire smoke from Quebec spread apocalyptic conditions as far south as New York City. Now, Hawaii is facing the same climate crisis that we are, and their state governors appear ill equipped to handle it. People in the NWT have been forced out of their homes and into other provinces. The ‘climate refugee’ terminology we have been hearing about is staring us in the face. Instead of investing in military operations or space exploration, Canada, the US, and the rest of the world need to heavily invest in defense against the rising climate crisis, and rapidly accelerate our emissions reductions. We can’t waste any more time.”

Chief Don Tom, UBCIC Vice-President, continued “The false promise of abundance that excused the overdevelopment driving wanton pollution is no longer serving anyone. We are all on this Earth together, and we must all do what we can to protect ourselves from what a future of climate crisis holds for us. We must invest in protective climate adaptation and ensure that our infrastructure can handle any crisis that comes our way. Well over half of the 34 basins listed on the BC Drought Information Portal, are on drought level 4 or 5 - the scale of this drought is massive and we’re seeing all-time low streamflow in some areas. I urge all Chiefs in BC to ensure that your communities’ water sources are reliable and that your warning systems are working; what has happened in Lahaina is reprehensible and their governments should be ashamed that they allowed things to go this far.”

“Many of First Nations communities in BC are remote, including my own, the Haíłzaqv Nation. When we have emergencies, emergency crews have a difficult time accessing our community due to the distance from the nearest town or city,” stated Chief Marilyn Slett, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer. “We have already been through major disasters in my community, and now we are facing another one with the climate crisis. Our communities must be diligent in protecting our people and our lands from harm further harm, and we must work together to hold governments and corporations accountable for the living conditions they have created for us.”

Donations for the people of Lahaina, Hawaii can be submitted to the following organizations:

Donations for the people of Enterprise, NWT, and surrounding areas, can be donated to United Way NWT Emergency Response.


Media inquiries:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 604-290-6083
Chief Marilyn Slett, Secretary-Treasurer, 250-957-7721

UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

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