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B.C. disaster drives home need for flood-resistant infrastructure across Canada, climate experts say –



More than two years after a failed dike led to flooding in his small Quebec community, Joel Godmer recalls the surreal sight of his home half-submerged in water. 

“I was shaking,” he said in a recent interview. “I was in shock for sure.”

Godmer’s home in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., west of Montreal, was one of many damaged by flooding in April 2019.

It has since been repaired and the nearby dike rebuilt, one-and-a-half metres higher than before. But this month’s flooding disaster in British Columbia brought back bad memories, he said.

“It’s a big warning for everyone,” Godmer said. 

Time to overhaul infrastructure

Climate specialists say a major overhaul of infrastructure in communities across Canada is needed to make homes, buildings, roads and rail lines more resilient to extreme weather events, as climate change makes those events more likely.

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“Infrastructure decisions in Canada are not accounting for a changing climate,” said Ryan Ness, research director for adaptation at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. 

An engineer, Ness is lead author of a recent report that found if there are not significant investments now to make infrastructure more resilient, Canada could see $13 billion in flooding damage yearly by the end of the century.

More than 2,000 homes were evacuated in Sainte-Marthe-sur-la-Lac, Que., after a dike failed in April 2019. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

What does adaptation look like?

Changes are necessary at the individual and government levels, Ness said, ranging from simple home retrofits ensuring functioning sump-pumps to regulations requiring disclosure of climate change risks for major projects.

Protecting the green space that acts as a natural defence against extreme weather is also crucial. 

Wetlands, for instance, help keep down temperatures during heat waves and help drain runoff during intense periods of rain, said Joanna Eyquem, managing director of climate resilient infrastructure for the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

Adapting to climate change needs to be seen as a long-term investment, she said.

“We need to learn to learn to live with it more effectively and better,” she said. “So that people are not losing their lives and we don’t have the same amount of damage.”

A demolition crew removes the remains of a mobile home in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac in August 2019, after the floods earlier that spring. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Some communities have already taken steps

There are examples across the country of communities taking steps to adapt to more extreme weather. 

Based on a climate impact report, the town of Selkirk, Man., built separate storm and septic sewers to better handle excess water and made wider boulevards that can hold more snow.

In Mississauga, Ont., a local conservation group installed walls of vegetation to slow down and clean storm water coming off a major roadway. 

“We know how to build resilience into infrastructure because it’s being done,” said Darren Swanson, an associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a think tank based in Winnipeg.

These kinds of projects need to be happening on a much wider scale, said Swanson. 

WATCH | Report highlights top areas of climate-change risk for Canadian communities:

New report warns of climate change risks for Canadian communities

2 years ago

Buildings, coastlines and northern communities face the biggest threat from climate change in Canada. That’s according to a new report done for the federal government, which highlighted six top areas of risk for Canadian communities. 3:35

Political, financial and social hurdles

The federal government has funded some projects — including part of the new dike in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac. —through its disaster adaptation fund.

Godmer said the higher dike makes him feel safer. 

“If they did it the same way it was before, I wouldn’t be feeling safe,” he said. 

But not everyone in the community likes it. Resident Serge Racette said his waterfront home used to have a view of the lake from his backyard, but it is now obstructed by the dike that runs for five kilometres along the shore. 

Serge Racette says his home is now obstructed by the dike that runs for five kilometres along the shore in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

“I understand we have to be protected,” Racette said, standing atop the dike looking out over Lac des Deux-Montagnes. “But we have to be protected by the right construction.” 

He and other homeowners argue the dike is higher than it needs to be and have launched a lawsuit against the municipality.

Beyond infrastructure improvements, other preparations are needed. Residents need to know how to prepare for emergencies, and that requires access to critical information like maps of flood zones and dikes, said Isabelle Thomas, a Université de Montréal professor who specializes in community disaster preparation.

“Whatever the risks, they need to know … so that it can be prepared,” she said.

Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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Designer Virgil Abloh remembered at Fashion Awards



Designers and celebrities paid tribute to Virgil Abloh at the Fashion Awards in London on Monday, where the late Louis Vuitton and Off-White creative force was honoured as a leader of change within the industry.

Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, who became fashion’s highest-profile Black designer, died on Sunday following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.

The 41-year-old, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been menswear artistic director at luxury label Louis Vuitton since March 2018.

“Genius, disruptor … (he) will be missed tremendously by all,” veteran designer Tommy Hilfiger said on the red carpet. “He inspired designers as well as the public.”

Designer and television personality Tan France called Abloh “incredible and a visionary … (who) has done the most beautiful work.”

Abloh, who founded label Off-White, was known for mixing streetwear with high-end suits and gowns while at Vuitton. His influences included graffiti art and hip hop.

“Everyone here is going to be talking about Virgil, everyone here has been impacted by his brilliance,” actor Gabrielle Union said.

At the awards, where Abloh’s photo was projected on stage, the designer was among 15 individuals and brands named leaders of change for their actions in the past year helping the environment, people and creativity.

Others on the list included Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, and Kim Jones, artistic director for Fendi womenswear and couture as well as menswear designer at Dior. Jones was also named designer of the year at the awards.

Michele also won the trailblazer award, while Hilfiger received the outstanding achievement award.

“I’m absolutely grateful, appreciative, humbled by it, but happy to be here and happy to still keep the business rolling,” Hilfiger, 70, said.

Demi Moore, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Dua Lipa were among the celebrity guests attending the event, a fundraiser for British Fashion Council charities.


(Reporting by Hanna Rantala and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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Bank of Canada to work with Indigenous groups on reconciliation



The Bank of Canada will work with Indigenous groups to understand the wounds caused by decades of discrimination and determine how reconciliation can create a more inclusive and prosperous economy for all, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Monday.

Macklem, opening a symposium on Indigenous economies, said Canadians could work to correct some of the consequences of those “ugly periods.”

Ottawa forcibly removed thousands of Indigenous children from their communities and put them in residential schools in an effort to strip them of their language and culture, a practice that continues to scar families and individuals.

“The Bank of Canada will be working with a broad spectrum of Indigenous groups to set out what reconciliation means for what we do,” Macklem said.

“Together, we’ll define what reconciliation means for the work of the Bank of Canada — toward a more inclusive and prosperous economy for everyone,” he said.

Canada‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the residential school system “cultural genocide” in 2015, as it set out 94 “calls to action” to try to restore Canada‘s relationship with its Indigenous people, including economic reconciliation.

“We can’t go back and change what’s happened. But we can try to correct some of the consequences,” said Macklem, adding that it is the central bank’s job to create conditions for opportunity for all Canadians.

“Taking concrete steps toward economic reconciliation is our responsibility too. And it’s incumbent upon us to take the time to do this well,” said Macklem.


(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Canada’s Trans Mountain still ‘days away’ from restarting pipeline



Canada‘s Trans Mountain said on Monday it was “still days away” from restarting the key oil pipeline at a reduced capacity as heavy rains continue to impede restoration efforts.

The pipeline, owned by the Canadian government, ships 300,000 barrels a day of crude and refined products from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. It was temporarily shut down as heavy rains and flooding caused widespread disruption in parts of British Columbia.

The operator said assessments of the impacts from the latest storm are being undertaken with a focus on the Coldwater and Coquihalla regions.

Work was interrupted at some sites on Sunday due to high water accumulation or lack of access, the company added.

The company on Friday had said it was working toward restarting the oil pipeline at a reduced capacity this week.


(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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