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Canadian Association of Forced Migration and Refugee Studies (CARFMS) National Conference

As part of the Canadian Association of Forced Migration and Refugee Studies (CARFMS) 2017 National Conference in Victoria, B.C., we hosted our second panel session, "An Interdisciplinary Conversation on the Urban Challenges of Climate Migrants," as part of the project. On the panel, we had project members George P.R. Benson, Cristyn Edwards, and Anna Zhuo speak and engage with workshop participants. 

Thematic Observations

  • Balance economic and environmental drivers of displacement and migration when talking about the initial challenge and in developing solutions.

  • There must be caution so as not to allow higher-level policy directions to stifle or kill local policy innovation.

  • Wealthy, northern-countries should re-evaluate trade or economic policies that can drive migration and displacement in the first place (e..g, structural re-adjustment policies in Africa).

  • Over-consumption needs to be acknowledged as the driver of climate change and other environmental disruptions (including economic dislocations), and that replicating that over-consumption if and where people are displaced by climate change will be ultimately self-defeating.

  • Cities and their surrounding environs must be analysed holistically to understand the impacts of growing populations

  • Resources must be apportioned to municipalities and actors in line with their needs and there can be no singular approach to disbursing resources; models like Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) must be thought of as tools to be selectively applied, not catch-all solutions.

  • This issue requires framing that includes an Environmental Justice lens, as defined by the EPA:

  • “[T]he fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, income, national origin, or educational level with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no population, due to policy or economic disempowerment, is forced to bear a disproportionate burden of the negative human health or environmental impacts of pollution or other environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies."

Action-Oriented Ideas

  • Undertake ongoing (daily/yearly/etc.) mapping of movement and flows of people and capital within cities to see clearly the impacts of climate change.

  • Move towards tracking movement as opposed to looking at a city in a fixed state.

  • Streamline the transfer and translation of certifications and training skills (intra-Canada and internationally)

  • Use strategies, such as community land-trusts, to dampen land speculation in locations where uncertainty over population may result in people trying to take advantage of climate-disruptions or other population movements.

  • Survey further the needs and wants of newcomers, and what needs are currently being met and what are not.

  • Engage migrant and refugee communities individually, with clear inter-cultural sensitivity and awareness of power dynamics

  • Further Data and predictions are crucially needed by cities to petition federal and provincial governments for more funding.

  • Create opportunities and places of meeting for migrant communities to better connect to the places where they move — in particular, creating opportunities for children and young people to express themselves and feel welcome.

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