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Flood recovery forum in July brings together B.C. First Nations, local governments

‘Let’s recognize that climate is changing and adapt toward resilience,’ says forum organizer
Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun captures video of a flooded section of Highway 1 between Cole Road and No. 3 Road looking east on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Disastrous flooding and landslides across B.C. in 2021 made it clear that water knows no bounds.

With that in mind, ‘Build Back Better Together’ is a regional forum set for July 14 in Abbotsford bringing together B.C. First Nations, and local governments by invitation, as well as provincial and federal government reps, to carve out an overarching plan for flood recovery in a new way.

“We need a shared vision for recovery and resilience so that we can work together respectfully and effectively in our shared landscape,” said organizer Tyrone McNeil. McNeil is chair of the Emergency Planning Secretariat representing 31 First Nations across B.C., and president of the Stólō Tribal Council.

Planning is well underway for the July 14 Forum at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Centre in Abbotsford. With local government and Indigenous reps at the table it will help break down silos, McNeil said, and he’s been working on forum planning with Jason Lum, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District.

FVRD chair Jason Lum, a Chilliwack city councillor, has involved in the Lower Mainland flood management strategy as a member of the leadership committee, facilitated by the Fraser Basin Council.

“I see this forum as an important opportunity to build consensus around how we can work together to better protect our communities,” Lum said.

“We are stronger and more resilient when we work together.”

The regional approach is what has been sorely missing in the response and recovery planning, McNeil said.

They’ll be analyzing flood recovery efforts now underway, with an eye to how they can work more effectively on preparing for a one-metre sea level rise by 2100.

“Let’s recognize that climate is changing and adapt toward resilience,” McNeil said.

To do this unprecedented unifying work they’ll be borrowing international ideas from the pillars of the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It posits that better emergency response planning can lead to substantially fewer disaster risks and losses, mortalities, and impacts on economic, physical, social and environmental realms.

The Sendai agreement takes the holistic approach, from understanding disaster risk, to strengthening disaster-risk governance, and investing in emergency preparedness and disaster-risk reduction. It’s preparing in a way that allows for the build back better principle to be realized.

All communities impacted by the disastrous flooding last fall are under pressure to recover quickly. Yet communities have varying capacity and resources.

Attendees will hear presentations and facilitated group discussions at smaller tables, opportunities for listening and dialogue. They‘ll be seeking common ground with the goal of drafting Build Back Better Together guiding principles to inform flood recovery and resilience efforts.

Examples of principles for Building Back Better Together in B.C. would include:

● Understanding and reducing risk;

● Advancing reconciliation. Building Back Better, Together must align with DRIPA commitments related to decision making and First Nations capacity building, and cultural and economic security, including consideration of impacts on salmon habitat and fisheries for food, social, and ceremonial purposes;

● Protecting, enhancing and reconnecting floodplain habitat for salmon and other at-risk fish and wildlife populations;

● Supporting and enhancing sustainable livelihoods and community resilience; and

● Supporting collaborative work that achieves multiple benefits

The July 14 forum has received funding from Emergency Management BC, and was endorsed by Public Safety Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada. This will be an interactive session so in-person attendance is encouraged, online options are available to those who want to listen.

The afternoon of June 27 will see a pre-forum information session (RSVP): On June 27, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. there will be an information session to introduce Building Back Better Together principles and solutions. This session is intended to help staff in preparing their leadership for the July 14 forum, but is open to anyone who would like to learn more. RSVP here.

Tickets for the July 14 Build Back Better Together Forum, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

RELATED: Indigenous-led action plan on flood mitigation

RELATED: Flood impacts varied widely across Stólō territory

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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