Northern British Columbia Regional Case
The Northern British Columbia (BC) Regional Case is geographically focused in the northern two-thirds of BC, within the service area of both the Northern Health Authority and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Local economies in northern BC have historically been characterized by an array of resource extraction, processing, and related infrastructure development and transport activities which include oil and gas, forestry, mining, agriculture, hydroelectric projects, fisheries, and an array of renewable energy projects. In turn, community and environmental health and wellbeing have been directly impacted by resource development in complex ways. Within this context, the UNBC Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC) and the NH Office of Health and Resource Development (OHRD) endeavour to work across multiple sectors, jurisdictions, and communities to better understand and address the social and environmental determinants of health in northern BC. The northern BC case is comprised of the CIRC, OHRD and a wide variety of other researchers and partners working to address the health impacts of resource development in this region.
Regional Case Updates
The Northern BC case continues to focus their work on the topic of ‘taking notice for action’ and has developed a research ethics protocol to engage intersectoral initiatives addressing the community and health impacts of resource development. This work will seek to profile existing initiatives and conduct in-depth key informant interviews to better understand the contexts, mechanisms and outcomes of intersectoral action across northern BC.
CIRC delivered a presentation and workshop in Smithers in September 2018 as part of an ongoing project to develop new tools for assessing the cumulative impacts of resource development. Additional workshops for this project will take place in Spring 2019 in the Peace River Region, Fort Nelson, and Vanderhoof. In addition, CIRC is launching a new research project on the gendered impacts of the pre-operational “buzz” phase of resource development, focusing on the activity surrounding LNG Canada in Kitimat.
Northern Health (NH) continues to support the Government of BC’s Environmental Assessment (EA) revitalization process. The province recently released an Intentions Paper outlining intended changes and introduced a revised Environmental Assessment Act (Bill 51) in the Legislature on November 5th for first reading. The news release can be viewed here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018ENV0080-002122. We are also in the process of applying for funding from Health Canada to conduct a Climate Change and Health Capacity, Vulnerability and Adaptability Assessment for the NH region in collaboration with various partners. The Health and Resource Development Office (HRDO) continues to be busy supporting various EAs and associated condition requirements, and has been continuing to engage with LNG Canada and the Coastal GasLink Pipeline as the projects prepare to move ahead with construction. HRDO will also be hosting an Interagency Meeting this month and is hoping to get a head start on smoke messaging for next summer.
CIRC convened a community workshop on the traditional territory of Saik’uz First Nation in Vanderhoof, BC on April 26, 2018 as part of an ongoing project focused on developing new tools and processes to assess and monitor the positive and negative impacts of resource development across northern BC. This workshop created space for people living and working in Vanderhoof and the surrounding area to share their perspectives and experiences related to past and ongoing resource development. More information about the “New Tools” project, and the Vanderhoof workshop, can
be found on the CIRC website.
Chris Buse, CIRC Project Lead, was awarded a CIHR Fellowship supported by the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Environmental Assessment Re-search and UNBC. This project will explore how to incorporate health imperatives and the determinants of health into provincial and federal environmental assessments. Marieka Sax, CIRC Operations Lead, was awarded a SSHRC Innovation Development Grant. This project will examine the gendered impacts of the speculative phase of resource development in two case study sites: a proposed tungsten and molybdenum mine in Stanley, NB and a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Kitimat, BC.
Recent months have been busy for the Office of Health and Resource Development (OHRD) with a number of projects preparing for summer construction. Additionally, we have been supporting numerous provincial and federal regulation/policy reviews and initiatives such as BC EA Revitalization, the Rural Development Strategy, spill response up- dates, and regulations to support the proposed federal Impact Assessment Act. We are also pleased to have released a guidance document to address the opioid crisis and provide guidance around harm reduction approaches in industrial camps (available on the OHRD webpage). On June 4-5, Northern Health collaborated with the Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable (PGAIR) to host a second North Central BC Clean Air Forum in Prince George. We were ex- cited learn from health experts from the BC Centre for Disease Control and Mariposa County, California and to see so many engaged community members and technical experts attend this event.
On January 18-19, 2018, the UNBC Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC),with support from the ECHO Network and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), convened the 2018 CIRC Forum: Cumulative impacts policy and practice in northern BC.This event brought together over 100 people interested in the cumulative impacts of resource development and climate change throughout northern BC. In a public keynote address on January 18, Megan Leslie, President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada, discussed cumulative impacts in the context of wildlife and habitat conservation. Throughout the day on January 19, sessions focused on a variety of topics, including cumulative effects assessment frameworks, Indigenous land use planning, watershed governance, impacts to health and wellbeing, and wildfires. We were also lucky enough to host a youth delegation, who facilitated an interactive discussion that challenged participants to reflect on how they could enable more meaningful youth participation in their ongoing work. Session recordings are available for viewing here.
We are also pleased to announce the release of reports from the Health Impacts of Resource Extraction and Development (HIRED) Project, a research collaboration between UNBC and Northern Health. This includes a Phase 1 Report (“Towards a better understanding of health in relation to mining and oil & gas extraction: A scoping review”) and a Knowledge Synthesis Bibliography. In addition, Northern Health and the BC Observatory for Population and Public Health recently released a report, “The social determinants of health impacts of resource extraction and development: A summary of impacts and promising practices for assessment and monitoring”. All 3 reports are available on the Office of Health and Resource Development website.
Throughout the fall, the UNBC Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC) had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop session with members of the Nechako Watershed Roundtable Core Committee. This workshop focused on discussing land-use planning that promotes the long-term health of ecosystems and communities and, importantly, involves communities in planning and decision-making processes. We also facilitated a community workshop in Fort Nelson, in which we presented a suite of publicly available information into a “regional profile” displaying socioeconomic, health and environmental indicators for the Northern Rockies Region. In addition to getting feedback on the usefulness of this tool, and the ways in which it complements ongoing processes in the Northern Rockies, workshop attendees shared stories in relation to the connections between environment, community, health and resource development.
In September, members of the CIRC team attended and presented at the RAIL Commons conference in Olds, Alberta, before travelling on to tour the Battle River Watershed with members of the BRWA-ECHO contingent. CIRC, with the support of ECHO and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), is in the process of planning a policy-oriented symposium in Prince George on January 18-19, 2018. This event will provide an opportunity to convene conversations with people and organizations interested in and actively working on issues related to the myriad impacts of resource development throughout northern BC.
Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority held a series of community engagement sessions in Fall 2015 exploring health and community impacts in relation to resource extraction and development, and recently released a report summarizing our findings (available at: http://www.fnha.ca/Documents/FNHA-Northern-First-Nations-Caucus-Overview-Fall-2015-Full-Report.pdf). The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly rich and insightful, and the report highlights a number of challenges, opportunities and best practices that exist in this area.
Northern Health (NH) continues to work at the project level, and is participating in the Environmental Assessment reviews of LNG, mining and pipeline projects. Recently, NH facilitated an inter-agency meeting for the north and released a Communicable Disease Guide for Industrial Camps. We expect to release additional documents soon that focus on the social and health impacts of resource development. NH, the Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium (CIRC) and other partners are participating in a Knowledge and Research Exchange group for northern BC. NH now has dedicated staff for an outdoor air quality program, and is working on a guidance document that will provide strategic direction and a collation of relevant air quality information. The program coordinator is also responding to complaints and inquiries and engaging with airshed management groups, regulatory agencies as well as experts across the province. Outdoor air quality risks in the north vary and recently NH has been busy responding to poor air quality conditions as a result of wildfires in the Interior region. Over the last few months, CIRC has had the chance to convene community workshops in the Nechako and Peace River Regions. In order to facilitate an interactive and arts-based workshop with grade 8 students, we developed an “integrated values mapping” tool to elicit and spatially locate various environment, community and health values that are important to youth living in the Nechako Region. CIRC facilitated “data-driven storytelling” workshops in five different communities in the Peace River Region in June 2017. As part of this process, CIRC staff compiled a suite of publicly available information into a “regional profile” displaying socioeconomic, health and environmental indicators for the Peace River Region. In combination with the regional profile, the data-driven storytelling process was designed to integrate narrative and lived experience with quantitative data to better tell a story of regional change.