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I would like to congratulate all of those who participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Yellowknife on Monday; both those in the parade and the many that came to watch or join the indoor ceremony that followed.

The Porcupine Caribou Herd is one of the last healthy large-migratory herds in the world.
photo courtesy of Marsha Branigan

Indeed, it is so important that we commemorate all of those who gave their lives or were seriously wounded to protect our freedom and democracy. However, I wonder how many people realize we are still at war and now, it truly is the war to change all wars and will determine our continued existence as a species and even as a planet.

Some of our new soldiers wear traditional garb, though they are not fighting with guns. Others wear the protective clothing that shields them from the flames they battle or the floods they work to contain. Still others only wear the clothes on their backs as they try to rescue both people and animals from the fires that surround them or the floods threatening to sweep them away.

This war, of course, is climate change which many countries and smaller jurisdictions around the world have declared as an emergency; yet we still have some world leaders who live in denial while Australia battles the worst bush fires ever and last week, California and parts of Lebanon did the same. All of us are aware of the toll the fires took on the Amazon rain forest over the summer; yet here in the Northwest Territories, education material has not been updated in almost 20 years to reflect present day reality.

Much to its credit, the City of Yellowknife is taking the issue seriously and following the lead of Whitehorse and the Yukon Territory, considering wording that would make the climate change crisis an official declaration therefore instituting policies and procedures to ensure the city is taking measures to reduce the impacts.

And while dealing with climate change made the new territorial government’s list of priorities, it was included almost at the end, far behind environmentally dangerous practices such as resource extraction, mining and the expansion of dams meant to feed the mining sector. This is discouraging; however and to her credit, in her interview on CBC’s The House last weekend, Caroline Cochrane did say that the government would be establishing a committee to look into climate change matters.

Since scientists are giving us 10 years before we move into full scale climate change catastrophe, and since a recent study by a PhD student at McGill University saying the effects of climate change could happen much quicker and be much more devastating than originally predicted thanks to melting permafrost, let’s hope the establishment of this committee happens soon.

Here in the North, the land, the animals and the people are being hit twice as hard as the rest of Canada and Canada, because of its northern location is being hit twice as hard as the rest of the world. We may still have a reasonable quality of air, but let’s not forget other major changes, such as the permafrost melt, that is causing irrevocable and costly damage; both to infrastructure and food for our wild animals. Our caribou are almost gone thanks to fires that robbed them of their food supply and mining that interrupted their migration routes and safe calving areas.

Rumour has it that some at both levels of government consider sacrificing caribou for mining jobs is an acceptable trade off. Sacrificial lambs. Are we prepared to let that happen? Maybe so since we still have the same minister overseeing mining development and the government’s climate change strategy when it is clear that climate change oversight needs to be an arm operating independently and with the clout to act.

To its credit, the government is taking a more serious look at expanding the tourism market bringing in people to admire the beauty rather than destroy it for the sake of the almighty dollar. We are being called more than ever to think outside the box keeping one eye on green sustainable practices.

There are only 43,000 people in this great territory which is the keepsake of Canadian sovereignty and it is our job to encourage the rest of Canada to pay attention to the needs and struggles of the North. Though we are a small, we are called to act big to protect this land in the face of growing threats and adversity.

Again, kudos and lifelong thanks to those who have given their lives to protect this precious life of ours and to the new warriors all over the world who are out there fighting and giving their lives too every day in this new and perhaps most deadly battle ever. So much land lost, so many people and animals die. Mother Earth is asking us to do our part – refuse to use plastic, refuse to pollute, plant trees; be aware. We are all warriors now.

Like it or not, we are in a fight for existence itself.

Thank you.

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