From B.C. to the Maritimes and the places in between, no community in Canada has been safe from extreme floods, fires and storms.
Despite talking like they care about the climate crisis, our federal government keeps approving new oil and gas megaprojects and slow-walking Just Transition legislation. This policy of Climate Delay has replaced climate denial as the biggest threat to our future. That’s why in the summer of 2022, people across the country shared their climate impact stories to build up our movement’s power and demand bold action.
We asked people from across Canada how climate disasters have impacted their communities and to share their vision for a better future. Here’s what they had to say.
“I lost my home in the Lytton fire of June 2021, both my current home and also my childhood home. Before the fire I didn’t really realise the urgency of climate change, it alwasy felt like a problem we’d be dealing with in a couple of decades. 2021 really illustrated to me that climate change is here, it is not a distant threat, it is already affecting us. My entire community burnt to the ground and hundreds of residents lost their homes, many of us are still displaced. Our community was torn open, pulled apart in many directions. Even to this day we lie scattered across the province. All the landmarks of my youth are gone, my school, the restaurants and stores, houses. It is incredibly hard as I feel I have no roots in a sense.
The more fossil fuels we pull from the ground, the worse things will get. We need to make a bigger effort to wean off fossil fuels so that climate change doesn’t continue to worsen.”
— Micha, Lytton/Lillooet BC
“I remember last years heat dome and staying in my apartment and gasping for lack of air. It was just too hot to breathe. I am mobility limited and wasn’t able to get anywhere that had a cooling centre. I did spend more time than usual at the mall because it was cooler there but I couldn’t live there and the nights were intolerable. This is a travesty. I don’t think [Justin Trudeau] understand’s how dire our situation is because he doesn’t experience it like we have to.”
— Sandi, Victoria BC
“I remember the heat dome hit in the peak of farming season. Our house AC broke down like it did for so many right at the peak of the heatwave. We couldn’t find an AC technician because of the demand, and we were without an AC for weeks in peak of the summer heat. My body remembers the feeling of breathing in that hot air in my home and outside in the farm. It felt unbearable at times, especially when outdoors in the farm or trying to cook a meal for my family. I felt like I was in a pot of warming water, but couldn’t find an escape or get the lid off.
I, like so many workers across the province, had no choice but to work overtime in the blazing 40+ degree heat to save our livelihood. Farmers had no choice but to work in these conditions, and it was devastating to still lose thousands of dollars worth of crop.
We know the Heat Dome was not a natural disaster, and the deaths were preventable. It is the result of years of climate denial and climate delay by the political and corporate class in Canada. You can draw a straight line from Canada’s failing climate record, the worst in the G7, through Justin Trudeau’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and approval of the Bay du Nord directly to climate disasters like this.”
— Jennifer, Kelowna BC
“The fires we had here last year were the biggest and scariest manifestation of climate change to date we had experienced. We were on the eastern flank of the heat dome area, but for us, the event didn’t stop after 4-5 days. We had something like 40 days that were above 30C last summer and virtually no rain. It was not a pleasant experience for anyone, but it was particularly devastating for people in First Nations to the north of Kenora that all had to evacuate – to places as distant as London, ON (2000 km away) as more nearby centres filled with fire evacuees.
We experienced this from the first week of June until the last week of October last year – and so many days of not being able to go outside or have doors or windows open, despite the 40C+ heat, because the smoke was so thick and ash was falling from the orange-grey skies, blanketing everything in white powder. It truly felt like the end of the world.”
— Teika, Ottawa ON
“Nearly half a century ago, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in August. Down at the bottom, the temperature was the hottest I had ever experienced.
Last June, during the heat dome, when I walked out of my house on normally temperate Gabriola Island BC, it was at least as hot as that, if not hotter. The intensity of this experience was frightening”
— David, Gabriola Island BC
“I was living in Peterborough when the Derecho blew through in May 2022. The city lost a ton of trees, trees landed on our neighbours houses and power went out to a lot of areas. The heat domes have affected my food and flower gardens, reducing the amount of food I can grow. There is also a population of snapping and painted turtles in the area and the mothers have been unable to lay their eggs because the ground is too hard/dry for them to dig.
Not stopping the production of fossil fuels is going to make heat domes and unpredictable severe storms more common.”
— Michelle, Brampton ON
“Since 3 summers ago we have suffered several blackouts that go on for days due to heat or extreme cold as well as high winds…During the extreme storm that came in the end of May and beginning of June, the tree in front of my house had broken several branches… My ac went out as well as the rest of the power, it was hot and humid, and every traffic light was out for hours. A few weeks after this, I took a walk on a day that it was 30 degrees. My medication puts me at a high risk of dehydration so I had a large water bottle. Despite this I almost ended up in the hospital from heat stroke even after taking all precautions necessary. I woke up through the night shivering and feeling sick, I felt dreadful and suffered a high fever throughout the day. These heat waves cause serious storms and [impacts] that the government is just brushing off.”
— Dwyn, Burlington ON
“A decade ago, the temperature only rose above 30 degrees Celsius a few days a year in Southern Manitoba, now it gets above 30 degrees Celsius for weeks on end. It underscores the immense fear that I have over my future. Last summer Western Canada was hit by a massive drought and heatwave; this year we have experienced frequent storms and flooding risk. Farmers are beginning to struggle under this pressure.
Trudeau’s climate denial threatens my future, every Canadian’s future, and the future of every person on earth.”
— Pierce, Winnipeg MB
“In 2021, I was a wild land firefighter in BC. The whole province was burning like none before, we even lost the town of Lytton. Couple of months later, massive floods affected so many area I can’t even list them all. And the consequences were outstanding…we need to take this situation seriously. Climate disaster will not stop otherwise.”
— Lela, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
“I live in the area outside Ottawa and we had a derocher – a word I only learned after all the destruction in its wake. I want our government to do everything it can and now. Stop pandering to lobbyists and corporate interests. We have no time to lose.”
— Carrie, La Peche, QC
“I was traumatized by the heat dome that occurred last summer – 2021. It often gets really hot in Kamloops during summer time, but that heat dome was something else! As soon as the extreme heat hit, I just knew that fires would quickly follow, as everything had become dry tinder. When the fires came, one of the sliding glass doors of my rented unit came off the rail, and the door had to come off. We slept in heat and heavy smoke that night until I was able to construct a cardboard alternative, which I sealed with loads of tape. I developed an awful cough that took a couple of months to subside.
Then the atmospheric river of November 2021 hit BC. We had a supply line crisis that occurred due to the smashed up highways which served to isolate the lower Mainland from the rest of the province .
Climate change is an existential crisis for us all. My biggest fear is losing our ability to grow adequate amounts of food.”
— Olivia, Kamloops BC
“I live literally on the edge of the 2021 Sparks Lake fire that burnt to the edge of my property, stopped by a rocky ridge. I had been on alert and evacuated in 2017 for several weeks and when this fire started only 15 km away I knew I had to go on alert and pack up, that it could be at my place easily within a day if it was windy.
It is impossible to explain and describe the stress to someone who has not been through something like this, of just how stressful and scary it is. It was 49C here and I worked for 12 hours to make my home more firesafe before evacuating. This was the same day Lytton burnt. There was a huge pyrocumulus 1 – 2 km away while I worked, checking on it often so I could get away if it started to come into my escape route.
I am feeling an indescribable amount of climate grief; I am frustrated at how slow people and government have been to the crisis and dismayed and angered by the obfuscation and denial lobbies that have dominated the conversation up to this time.”
— Wendy, Savona BC
“On May 21st, 2021, a storm called a ‘Derecho’ raged across Ontario and Quebec. This was the first time most of us had heard the term; it refers to a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. It left devastation in its wake, with thousands of downed power lines, thousands of old, mature trees ripped out of the ground, and power outages for large areas of Ontario and Quebec. All of a sudden we had no power, no water, and no cash. The internet was down in most places, so bank machines weren’t working and gas stations couldn’t accept anything but cash. The grocery stores were closed. Thankfully, we emerged from the disaster within a few weeks, but it was scary. And now, over the past few months, Ontario has been afflicted by numerous severe thunderstorm warnings, many of which have included tornado warnings. This was not my reality as a child. This is climate change.”
— Johanna, Lakefield ON
“I’ve moved to the coast from the interior because I don’t feel safe living in my beloved forests anymore. Summer is now known as fire season… I expect to suffer through fires, floods and droughts for the rest of my life. [Trudeau needs to] Stop being a lacky and committing genocide on behalf of oil and gas so that a few men can make obscene profits.”
— Erica, Delta BC
“I was at 82° North on the Arctic Ocean filming a scientific expedition studying the breakdown of sea ice. The oceanic ice was much more fragmented than the satellite images and climate models had suggested. We were repeatedly trapped by ice floes crushing together in the ocean current. Our expedition became a daily struggle for survival.
Every kilogram of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels is directly responsible for Arctic snow and sea ice losses. By delaying climate action, Justin Trudeau’s decision to invest in fossil fuel expansion is advancing the loss of Arctic albedo, and in effect destroying our global cooling system.”
— Stephen, Canmore AB
“I survived the heat dome of 2021. Even with the air conditioner and fans going it was unbearable hot in our house. Going outside was impossible. It was just too hot. Yesterday and today are also very hot. It was 37 degrees in the shade at my house. The heat is continuing today and forecast for more days to come. Most uncomfortable! Last summer and the summer before presented smoke filled skies making it awful to be outside.”
— Diana, Chemainus BC
“Every time a major storm is announced, we wonder whether we still have a home as each storm gets progressively stronger. We recently experienced a derecho – a term never heard before. My meteorologist vocabulary has expanded during these past couple of years and all new words are disaster related. Following the storms, I see the after-effects of the destruction caused, and my heart sinks, knowing they’ll get progressively worse in the years to come.”
— Cindy, Vaughan ON
“The heat dome here last summer greatly impacted my ability to produce our family’s food. We rely on the big garden to fill the pantry, cold room, and freezer for the year. The intense heat also blew the old transformer on the pump house, which left us without water for two days at the peak of the heat dome. We have had to buy more food this year than normal, and with prices what they are now, this is a serious budgetary strain…It is hard to put words to the emotions: despair, frustration, grief, disbelief, cynicism about Trudeau’s actual concerns.”
— Louise, Heriot Bay BC
” I am in a constant state of climate anxiety watching my kids try to navigate their young lives knowing that their future is bleak. So many young folk suffer crippling anxiety brought on by the crumbling world around them and watching our ‘leaders’ lead us into a world of unmitigated, yet preventable disasters.”
— Jessica, Victoria BC
“I am in a constant state of climate anxiety watching my kids try to navigate their young lives knowing that their future is bleak. So many young folk suffer crippling anxiety brought on by the crumbling world around them and watching our ‘leaders’ lead us into a world of unmitigated, yet preventable disasters…Are the federal Liberals more willing to subsidize US billionaires than Canadian homeowners wanting more fuel-efficient energy sources? I would love to hear Trudeau say out loud: “Texaco CEO’s matter more than your mother, or your son.” Because that’s what his actions are telling us.”
— Liz, Vancouver BC
“A decade ago, the temperature only rose above 30 degrees Celsius a few days a year in Southern Manitoba, now it gets above 30 degrees Celsius for weeks on end. It underscores the immense fear that I have over my future. Last summer Western Canada was hit by a massive drought and heatwave; this year we have experienced frequent storms and flooding risk. Farmers are beginning to struggle under this pressure. With climate change only getting worse, how will they be able to feed us in the future?”
— Pierce, Winnipeg MB
“Our summers here in Vernon have involved intense fires and breathing in smoke from BC and the US. The summer of 2021 heat dome was followed by out of control wildfires, right around Vernon, all over the province. The government needs to wake up to the severity and urgency of the problem and take immediate action to STOP our reliance on fossil fuels and embrace sustainable and live giving solutions.”
— Tamara, Vernon BC
“Last year’s record breaking fires in Manitoba caused the sky to be gray for most days for weeks across all southern Quebec. This triggered my little girl’s asthma multiple times, causing her to wake up in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing and intense coughing. Imagine the horror of waking up and not be able to breathe. This happened while we were in vacation in a remote village far from any source of pollution.
Each year spent extracting oil and gas from the earth increases the intensity of the pain that our children will go through. The warming has begun and we already see never before seen deadly heat waves and floods. The choice we make now is between a livable world or a hellscape world; between a world that can cope or a world of famine, war and suffering. Canada, being one of the largest producers of oil and gas, has a big role to play and must choose to keep the hydrocarbons in the ground, where they belong.”
— Antoine, Lévis QB
“I work as a consulting arborist, and at times it feels like I’m on the front lines of climate change. Witnessing firsthand the widespread decline of Western red cedars due to drought stress in the lower mainland has been one of the most distressing experiences of my life. My ability to recharge in nature is diminished now because all I can see is how much my favourite tree species is threatened by our hotter, drier summers. [Our leaders need to] stop messing around and treat it like the emergency it is.”
We are living through a climate emergency. Call on Justin Trudeau to stop delaying action. That means immediately ending fossil fuel expansion and passing legislation to ensure a rapid, just transition to 100% clean energy.
Over the past year, extreme heat, fires, floods and storms have caused chaos across Canada. This summer, large parts of the globe are suffering through deadly heat waves like the Heat Dome that struck BC in 2021. Despite the worsening climate crisis, our federal government keeps approving new fossil fuel projects, building pipelines, and slow-walking promised Just Transition legislation.
This policy of Climate Delay has replaced climate denial as the biggest threat to our shared future. It’s up to all of us to make our politicians snap out of it and take the bold action we need. Sign the petition now and join our people-powered movement for climate justice.
Dear Justin Trudeau, the planet is on fire. Stop delaying climate action.
After the town of Lytton, BC burned to the ground last year, you gave a speech at the UN promising to go "further, faster" to tackle the climate emergency. Since then, people across Canada and around the world have faced an onslaught of climate disasters from extreme heat and fires to storms and floods. Yet, your government continues to make this crisis worse by supporting the fossil fuel industry to profit from climate breakdown.
Today, I’m calling on you to act on your bold words and stop delaying climate action. That means:
An immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel approvals and a freeze on all fossil fuel infrastructure projects under construction — including the Trans Mountain pipeline and Bay du Nord.
Pass a Just Transition Act that supports workers and communities as we race to build a 100% clean energy economy at the speed science and justice demand, with a focus on Indigenous, remote, rural and other communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.
Lytton hasn’t even finished rebuilding and they’re being threatened by an out-of-control wildfire once again this summer. While climate disasters turn our communities upside down, you’re actively making the problem worse by approving new fossil fuel megaprojects like Bay du Nord, using taxpayer dollars to make sure the Trans Mountain pipeline gets built, and slow-walking the Just Transition legislation you promised in 2019. By propping up Big Oil instead of doubling down on a rapid, just transition to clean energy you are putting me and everyone I love at risk.
If you’re serious about tackling the climate crisis and protecting communities, it’s time to stop fossil fuel expansion in its tracks and invest in the green jobs and the critical infrastructure needed to retool our economy as we rapidly shift away from fossil fuels.
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COMMUNITY CLIMATE IMPACT RESPONSE
Our communities aren’t waiting around for the government to take action. Those of us on the frontlines of raging wildfires, floods, storms and extreme heat are leading the kind of bold, transformative projects we need to tackle the climate emergency. We can’t let our government abandon its responsibility to keep us safe, but we can all learn from the Indigenous communities and mutual aid networks keeping people safe in the wake of climate disasters. Here are some of their stories:
DECOLONIZING CLIMATE IMPACT RESPONSE.
Indigenous communities like the Tsilhqot’in Nation are taking wildfire response into their own hands. Tsilhqot’in Tribal Chairman, Nitsil’in Joe Alphonse, explains why Indigenous leadership and knowledge should be central to climate impact response:
“Our traditional, ecological and territorial knowledge of the Tsilhqot’in territory weaves an unbreakable thread through our generations for century upon century. Protecting our lands, food sources and homes from wildfire is nothing new to us. We always knew the time would come for a massive wildfire event – it was never a matter of if, but always a matter of when. When the 2017 wildfires hit, we knew we had a long battle ahead of us. We knew that this battle was not going to be on the land with wildfire – it was going to be in the administration office with the financial reports, in the homes with the families and in the boardrooms with outside organizations.” — Read the full Tsilhqot’in report on the 2017 wildfires
DISABILITY JUSTICE IS AT THE HEART OF CLIMATE IMPACT RESPONSE
The 2021 Heat Wave demonstrated how extreme temperatures affect people differently even if they live right next door to each other. When a climate disaster hits, years of government inaction mean climate disasters are a bigger threat to people who are poor, are disabled, are older and have underlying health conditions. That is why disability justice and addressing the affordability crisis must be at the centre of government climate action and climate impact response.
Gabrielle Peters, disability justice policy expert and member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission told delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) about how hard the 2021 deadly Heat Dome hit her community:
“Disabled poor people are rendered helpless by policy decisions made by people with power we don’t have who deflect responsibility for their choices by telling us it’s our personal responsibility to navigate intersecting systemic oppressions.
Disabled people won’t survive climate change if it isn’t in the plan for us to do so. And you can’t plan for us without us.
But first I need you to reassure me that the plan isn’t in fact for us to die in order to lighten the lifeboat.
How many times have we seen environmental policies failed to apply a disability lens offloading a burden onto disabled people and robbing us of whatever little accessibility we have?
We need leaders to commit to working with us to create disability-led plans to lessen and address the impacts of climate change. We can and must create a future that celebrates and supports all human life. We must leave no one behind.”
Watch Gabrielle Peters full testimony on the 2021 Heat Dome at the 2021 UN Climate Convention:
COMMUNITIES ON THE FRONTLINES ARE THE FIRST TO RESPOND
We know the climate emergency disproportionately affects already vulnerable communities, but when communities are used to fending for themselves they build strong and responsive networks that keep people safe and help them bounce back in the wake of climate disaster.
In Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, for instance, the death toll during COVID-19 and the 2021 Heat Dome was much lower than many expected thanks to strong mutual aid networks that kept its community safe. Read this statement from the DTES Response, a community response network founded to protect people their neighbourhood:
“When it became obvious that COVID-19 was a threat to the already vulnerable residents, frontline groups sprang into action. Folks came together in ad hoc groups to figure out how to get massive quantities of hygiene products to community members. This led to an ambitious campaign to get more support for other needs.
There is one thing many of us agree on: the DTES deserves our attention. And not only because it is part of Vancouver, but because the challenges facing this neighbourhood is the result of decades of urban development, social planning, and colonial mindset that have eroded the resilience and dignity of its residents. As citizens of this city, we all have a responsibility.
The solution will never be found in strangers that parachute into the neighbourhood with their prescriptive and well-meaning ideas. The solution is found on the ground — with frontline groups, Indigenous voices, and community members with lived experience who have the insight and deep knowledge required to tackle these complex problems…”
In the face of worsening climate disasters, our federal government keeps delaying critical action. That’s why on June 29th, hundreds took to the streets to remember the 619+ lives lost during the 2021 Heat Dome one year earlier and demand Trudeau , the deadliest climate event in our history, and the climate impacts since that have hit our communities since., to demand Trudeau pass the Just Transition legislation he promised years ago so Canada can get off fossil fuels fast. The fact is, Canada can’t tackle the climate crisis without two bold actions the Trudeau government refused to take:
Put an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel approvals and a freeze on all fossil fuel expansion projects under construction — including the Trans Mountain pipeline and Bay du Nord.
Pass a Just Transition Act that supports workers and communities as we race to build a 100% clean energy economy at the speed science and justice demand, with a focus on Indigenous, remote, rural and other communities on the front lines of the climate crisis
Getting the Just Transition Act right could mean the difference between putting Canada on the right track as we take on the climate crisis, or continuing down the dangerous path of climate delay and denial we are on. Together, we have the power to make sure our government meets this moment and leaves no one behind.