The Lennox Island Mi’kmaq Climate Shipwreck

Over the past five years, the climatologist has conducted several surveys on Prince Edward Island, including Lennox Island. He measured the rate of coastal erosion in combination with the Mi’kmaq, and his results do not bode well. Boats are now moored where young people played baseballhe gives as an example.

Prince Edward Island is at the forefront of climate change impacts in Canada. And at the heart of this county, Lennox Island is arguably its most vulnerable spot.

A quote from Adam Fenech, director of the climate lab at Prince Edward Island University

Scientists have made a number of predictions, but none announce a reversal of the situation. In the worst case, sea level rise could reach three meters in the next 50 years. Almost half of the island would then be under water! The red sands of the island have always been vulnerable to erosion, but the situation is getting worse. What’s happening here now is a taste of what could happen across the countrysays Mr. Fenech.

Experts agree that installing levees to protect the shores of Lennox Island is too expensive and ineffective in the medium term against rising water. Instead, they advocate building roads and infrastructure as far from the coast as possible.Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

The scientific investigations are relentless. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that ocean levels could rise by about 50cm by 2100, posing a serious threat to Canada’s eastern coastal regions, particularly the maritime provinces.

A recent study, commissioned by Prince Edward Island authorities, sought to assess the expected impacts of climate change over the next 30 years. The province is expected to experience more frequent heat waves, stronger post-tropical storms and accelerated coastal erosion.

The report states in black and white that the climate crisis poses additional risks to the Lennox Island First Nation. In addition to damage to coastal homes and impacts on community infrastructure, their sacred grounds, medicinal plants and traditional hunting and fishing areas are also at risk.reveals the document.

A sign announces the arrival in the community of Lennox Island, Prince Edward Island.

All of Prince Edward Island is part of Mi’kma’ki, the traditional undisclosed territory of the Mi’kmaq. The county has four Aboriginal communities and three of them (Morell, Rocky Point and Scotchfort) belong to the Abegweit First Nation. As for Lennox Island, it belongs to the First Nation of the same name.Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

According to the cartographic records of the atlas Meahams (New window)the area of ​​Lennox Island was 615 hectares (1,520 acres) in 1880. The island had only 500 hectares (1,240 acres) in 2010. In a few generations, it is the equivalent of 300 football fields already engulfed, a situation that can be attributed to to human activity, but also to climate change, according to Mr Fenech.

It was precisely in December 2010 that members of the First Nation became truly aware of the existential danger of these upheavals, says Randy Angus of the Mi’kmaw Confederation of Prince Edward Island: An extreme storm hit the community hard, bringing down much of the causeway, the only access connecting the island to the rest of the province. The causeway was cut off by the force of the waves and people understood that they could get stuck at any moment.

Randy Angus has worked for the Mi’kmaw Confederation of Prince Edward Island for over ten years. He is particularly concerned with issues related to climate change within this Aboriginal organization that brings together representatives of the four First Nations of the province.

He soon realized that the most pressing challenges lie on Lennox Island, the epicenter that brings together most of the weather problems: We couldn’t wait any longer. A crisis management program had to be set up. We have started monitoring some sensitive infrastructures, such as the causeway, fishing port or lagoon, used for wastewater treatment.

Randy Angus in the Lennox Island community.

Randy Angus, who works for the Mi’kmaw Confederation of Prince Edward Island, points out the many ocean hazards that the community of Lennox Island has faced for many years.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

The lagoon in question – a multimillion-dollar sewage well a stone’s throw from the shore – is indeed in an unstable position, which is of great concern to the population. It would be enough for a severe storm to damage the sector to potentially cause a real ecological disaster.

The waste would then be scattered throughout the Bay of Malpeque, a world-renowned shellfish and oyster farm. Not only would the impact be deadly to local industry, but if spilled, it could contaminate the community’s drinking water and make the island uninhabitable.says Mr Angus.

The sewage lagoon of Lennox Island.

The location of the wastewater lagoon, too close to the sea, is one of the main concerns of the residents of Lennox Island.Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

The survival of the community on Lennox Island will depend on its long-term ability to adapt to the new climatic realities.

A quote from Randy Angus, Mi’kmaw Confederation of Prince Edward Island

Faced with multiple dangers, there is a real sense of urgency, a deep desire to keep the memory of the area alive before it’s too late. We try to safeguard heritage sectors or sacred sites.

This is the case of the historic cemetery, located higher up, but sandwiched between the coast and the main road. Underneath were placed blocks of hard rock imported from New Brunswick—Prince Edward Island has none—with the same purpose: to deflect the direction of the waves and slow the slow coastal erosion. It must be said that the ancestral tombs are only a few meters from the shore.

Lennox Island Cemetery is threatened by rising water.

Although the more than a hundred-year-old cemetery of the Catholic Church of Lennox Island sits on one of the highest points on the island, it was the first place the people wanted to protect from coastal erosion. Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

And then there are those teams of archaeologists who come to do excavations. Their goal is to quickly extract Aboriginal artifacts found on the beaches, especially in Pitawelkek, not far from Lennox Island.

The area is known to contain millennia-old artifacts confirming the ancient presence of the Mi’kmaq in the area. From time immemorial, our First Nation draws much of its food from the waters of the baysays Mi’kmaw angler Robert Augustine. I’m very concerned that we may not be here in a few years.

The authorities and scientists regularly inform us about the development of the situation, he continues. They’re especially concerned about subsidence, because on Lennox Island, the waves don’t have to be that big to completely submerge us.

Above all, he says he has confidence in the members of the band council. However, he hopes they do everything they can to ensure the sustainability of the place: We want to be able to preserve our territory for at least the next 100 years.

Fisherman Robert Augustine.

The Aboriginal people of the island of Lennox live from the sea. Fishing is indeed the economic lifeline of the island. The community currently has 32 boats engaged in commercial and traditional lobster fishing. The population also harvests oysters, snow crab, mussels and many other fish stocks.Photo: Radio-Canada / Ishmael Houdassine

Leave a Comment