Indigenous Reserve Lands in Canada Face High Flood Risk

Policy Brief No. 159

April 30, 2020

Nearly every year, Indigenous peoples in First Nations communities face property damage, disrupted livelihoods and the severe social and psychological burdens associated with evacuation due to flooding. Perhaps the most striking example is the recurrent flooding that afflicts the Kashechewan First Nation in Northern Ontario, whose residents have been forced to evacuate their homes every spring for 17 years.

Although it’s known that Indigenous communities face a greater flood risk and experience more flood emergencies than the general Canadian population, the scope and magnitude of the current threat, and how it might evolve under climate change, has been little studied.

This policy brief reports on research at the University of Waterloo that is assessing, quantifying and mapping the flood risk to Indigenous peoples living on reserve lands and includes policy recommendations to help with better understanding and reducing that risk.

About the Authors

Jason Thistlethwaite is a former CIGI senior fellow and an associate professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.

Andrea Minano is a research manager of the Climate Risk Research Group at the University of Waterloo. 

Daniel Henstra is a former CIGI senior fellow and an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Daniel Scott is professor and university research chair in geography and environmental management and the director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo.