Series of Events

Columbia River Treaty Symposium
crt symposium

The symposium’s main objectives were to identify key science and technical issues, raise awareness, and explore the future of the Columbia River and the Columbia River Treaty. Canadian, American, and Indigenous experts and professionals, many with decades of experience from working on these important topics, will be sharing their knowledge and expertise.

This event was hosted in partnership with the Centre of Global Studies and the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA).

The Hard Work of Hope in the Anthropocene – Lecture and Discussion
hard work of hopeSixty people came out to this engaging afternoon lecture and discussion with sustainability experts Dr. Tim O’Riordan (Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK) and Dr. Jon O’Riordan (Strategic Advisor, Water Policy, POLIS Water Sustainability Project; Associate Fellow, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria; Advisor, Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT), Simon Fraser University), who discussed specific sources of hope, with a focus on the transformative potential of sustainability science.

“The emergence of the Anthropocene, when human activity has become the dominant influence on altering the planet Earth, requires new approaches to research methods and purposes,” said Dr. Tim O’Riordan. “In the old days, science was seen as being elitist, done by scientists. Now we see it is in everyone to be a scientist, communicate what they wish for, and what they don’t want to see. That combination of changing the dialogue is of essence to sustainability sciences.”

Dr. Jon O’Riordan shared insights from his books The Hard Work of Hope (Rocky Mountain Books, 2017) and The Climate Nexus (Rocky Mountain Books, 2015), and described how water is at the heart of this nexus, yet is also the worst managed resource that we have globally.

They laid out practical steps for creating the change of consciousness that will be necessary for humanity to survive in a changing climate, including the development of new institutions, new models for partnerships, new forms of financing watershed management, and a strong focus on communication and education.
hard work of hope in the anthropocene

Treaty Talks: Paddling Up the Columbia River for People and Salmon –
Film Screening and Panel Discussion on the Columbia River Treaty

treaty talks filmApproximately 60 community members attended the film screening of Treaty Talks: Paddling up the Columbia River for People and Salmon. The short documentary took us on a 1243-mile journey from the ocean to the source of the Columbia River in five dugout canoes. Throughout the film we heard conversations between shareholders of the river and saw the efforts of citizens working to restore historic salmon runs.

After the film screening, we invited the three panelists to the stage to kick off the discussion on the Columbia River Treaty – Jay Johnson (Chief Negotiator and Senior Policy Advisor, Okanagan Nation Alliance), Kathy Eichenberger (Executive Director, Columbia River Treaty Review, B.C. Government), and Jesse Baltutis (Graduate Fellow at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies and Water, Innovation, and Global Governance Lab).

They discussed the upcoming renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, the role of Indigenous nations in a modernized treaty, and the numerous issues that have emerged since the treaty was introduced –which include: ecosystem integrity; bringing Indigenous values and perspectives to the decision-making table; a shift in energy demands; and climate change.

With the renegotiation of the 1964 Canada-US Columbia River Treaty at a pivotal state, the panellists emphasized the importance of collaboration – not only between Canada and the United States, but also with Indigenous nations, local governments and other stakeholders along the Columbia River. This collaborative approach has not only made the process of engagement more inclusive, but also opened up the dialogue for ecosystem objectives and enhancing salmon passage.
treaty talks

Focus on the Fraser – Webinar
fraser webinarAs part of the lead-in to Watersheds 2018, POLIS hosted a special webinar: Focus on the Fraser: a Peer-to-Peer Watershed Governance Dialogue. The webinar focused on updates and lessons-learned from three key Fraser watershed initiatives:

  • Michelle Tung shared insights on Indigenous-led initiatives on environmental flows, weir management, and habitat restoration based on her work with the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance.
  • Lina Azeez provided an overview of Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s Connected Waters campaign and efforts to reconnect and restore salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser watershed.
  • Kim Menounos shared updates on the work of the Nechako Watershed Roundtable Initiative and its important role in coordinating different initiatives, engaging local groups and the Province, and providing an information hub.

To set the stage for the conversation, Natasha Overduin (POLIS/CIER) introduced the Stepping Stones for Watershed Governance as a tool for watershed groups to use to assess their successes and identify opportunities to expand their impact. Natasha highlighted that there is no one size fits all to watershed governance—what works in the Upper, Lower, or middle Fraser will look different. Despite shared issues across the vast watershed (e.g., salmon), local priorities still determine the scope and goals of watershed initiatives. Natasha also emphasized that although collaboration is seen as an important approach to advancing water priorities (and in fact 100% of participants on the webinar noted through a poll that collaborative approaches are part of their work)—collaboration is also messy and demands deep commitment from the partners involved.

Lina Azeez (Connected Waters Campaign Manager, Watershed Watch Salmon Society)
Kim Menounos (Nechako Watershed Roundtable Initiative Lead, Fraser Basin Council)
Michelle Tung (Environmental Projects Manager, Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)
Natasha Overduin (Program Manager & Research Associate, POLIS Water Sustainability Project and Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources)

Water, Peace and Global Security – Talk
water peace global securityA standing-room-only crowd gathered at the University of Victoria to attend a special event on the theme of Water, Peace and Global Security: Canada’s Place in a Changing Water World. Co-hosted by the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, Centre for Global Studies, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, and Rocky Mountain Books, this event explored the importance of and risks to fresh water from the global to the local, and Canada’s role in advancing key governance and policy solutions to the growing water crisis worldwide. This high-profile event also included remarks by Her Honour Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Bob Sandford (EPCOR Chair in Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water Environment and Health) kicked off the event with a compelling look at the tight links between climate change and the acceleration of the global water cycle, and the urgent need to act to stay within Earth system boundaries.

“There is a huge—and growing—gap between awareness of global water challenges and the actual level of global cooperation,” said Sandford. “However, the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are a key vehicle through which water cooperation can be advanced.”

Next, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., gave her remarks, reiterating not only the importance of water and the need to build climate resilience, but also the role of sustainable agricultural practices as part of the solution.

Jon O’Riordan (Strategic Advisor to both the POLIS Water Sustainability Project and Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team) closed the session with a focused discussion related to the priorities and opportunities in British Columbia.

“Some specific changes must occur in order to advance a robust freshwater agenda for B.C.,” said O’Riordan. “We must focus on water security, new approaches to water-based planning and governance, education, and communication.”

This session was one aspect of the lead-in to a series of virtual and in-person events that POLIS will be hosting in the coming months as part of Watersheds 2018, which builds on efforts to convene B.C.’s freshwater community, provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, and build capacity to advance watershed governance.
water peace and global security

Collaborative Consent and Revitalizing Indigenous Laws – Webinar
cc webinarIn recent years, governments at all levels in Canada have stated their commitments to reconciliation and building nation-to-nation approaches with Indigenous peoples. Both the federal and B.C. governments have committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which reiterates the need to secure consent and ensure Indigenous peoples are full partners in Confederation. Fresh water offers an important opportunity around which to start building these new relationships and consent-based governance approaches.

In this webinar, the speakers shared insights from recent research and applied work on collaborative and Indigenous-led approaches to watershed governance, including the 2017 research report Collaborative Consent and British Columbia’s Water: Towards Watershed Co-Governance co-published by the POLIS Project and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.

Rosie Simms (Water Law/Policy Researcher and Project Manager, POLIS Water Sustainability Project, University of Victoria)
Michael Miltenberger (Principal, North Raven)
Simon Owen (Senior Researcher, Indigenous Law Research Unit, University of Victoria)