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Community Summary Report: West Kootenays

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Community Partner name: West Kootenay EcoSociety 

Conversation date: Between 9/13/21 and 2/4/22 

1. Introduction 

A. Summary 

100-150 words that highlight the key takeaways from the Community Summary Report. Were there any issues, concerns, solutions or ideas that were talked about in multiple breakout groups and/or were strong themes in discussion of the full group? Did any general points of consensus emerge from the group? 

We attempted to be as diverse in our outreach as possible. In doing so, feelings, motivations and needs were varied but also similar. Several if not all interviewed have in one way or another been affected by the pandemic – jobs lost, income insecurity, and food insecurity. Many voiced how the cost of essential services have increased but their income has not. Top concerns include housing security and the need for affordable housing, endless waiting lists for housing, public transportation, child care, increase in the price of groceries, as well as the price of fuel that impacts travel for work, or other necessary travel. During the interviews several folks shared that being heard and listened to felt new, that these interviews felt like a step in the right direction, and that they would love to support each other and their community in the best way they can. 

B. About the Green Resilience Project 

This community conversation was part of the Green Resilience Project, a Canada-wide series of conversations exploring and documenting the links between community resilience, income security and the shift to a low-carbon economy. Working with a designated partner organization from each community, the Green Resilience Project aims to create spaces in which a wide range of participants can talk through the links between climate change and income security, and identify possible next steps to build or maintain community resilience in the face of these challenges. 

This Community Summary Report reflects what we heard and learned in our community’s conversation. Each Project partner organization across Canada will be producing a similar report. In March 2022, the Green Resilience Project will produce a final report summarizing findings across conversations, which will be available to the public and shared with Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

Funding for the Green Resilience Project is generously provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Climate Action and Awareness Fund. The Project is managed and delivered by Energy Mix Productions, Basic Income Canada Network, Coalition Canada Basic Income – Revenu de base, Basic Income Canada Youth Network, national experts and local partners. 

C. About the Community Partner organization 

This section should talk about what the organization does and its connection to the community in which the conversation took place. It could also discuss how the organization came to participate in the Green Resilience Project and why it was interested in participating. If you used the Green Resilience Project conversation script as the basis of your conversation, you may be able to pull this content from your script. 

West Kootenay EcoSociety is a non-profit community-driven organization that brings together local residents to protect the natural environment while building just, equitable, healthy, and livable communities. In 2015, the EcoSociety launched the 100% Renewable Kootenays campaign which aims to organize communities and local governments around committing to transition their community energy to 100% renewable energy by 2050. This includes heating and cooling, transportation, waste management, and electricity. As of today there are 11 local governments committed to this goal, with 6 of them having adopted The West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy Plan, which EcoSociety facilitated developing with 9 local government partners. The EcoSociety believes that governments must prioritize the needs of low-income, BIPOC, and other vulnerable communities in their implementation of the Plan to action a “just transition.” 

The goal of these 1:1 interviews with low-income and marginalized community members in the West Kootenay region was to learn more about their needs, in a space space where they could be comfortable and share lived experience, to incorporate into our advocacy for more just, equitable, affordable and accessible communities in the context our 100% Renewable Kootenays campaign. We were happy to have the opportunity to include the questions from the Green Resilience Project in our interviews to represent the West Kootenay region and marginalized voices in the national climate and income equity conversation. 

D. Why this community was selected to have a conversation 

This section should answer the following questions, and can be pulled from your conversation script: 

● What issues does this community face, and how are they related to income security and/or climate change? 

The cost of living, housing, transportation and food to support families is a growing concern. All participants shared the need for more affordable and available housing. Participants in Trail, Nelson and Castlegar, the larger West Kootenay communities, felt that public transportation needed to be improved with more routes, stops, and hours. This is especially true on weekends where bus service is severely lacking in the region. 

● How is the local environment changing, and what actions has the community taken on climate change, the energy transition, income security or community resilience? 

Climate change is showing up as hotter and drier summers, more precipitation during precipitation events, and more rain in the winter, instead of snow in the West Kootenay region. There were ones who couldn’t start or maintain gardens due to the very hot temperatures and forest fires, the smoky days prohibited ones with respiratory problems or other health conditions from spending too much time outside which meant they had to stay and it affected their mental state and their gardens. Feels as though climate impacts are also impacting their cost of living in their home and in getting around. With this, some decided to park their vehicles more often and take public transportation or walk to decrease their carbon footprints, folks also talked about how they have increased their recycling, and the desire to use more solar options. 

● What are the community’s strengths and/or assets? 

Community strengths include strong connection to family and desire to create community, whether that be through family gardens or making public transportation more accessible. 

E. About the conversation participants 

# of conversation participants: 105 

Based on the criteria provided to you by the Green Resilience Project, who did you choose to invite to your conversation and why? 

Our outreach efforts focused on low-income people who are often left out of conversations and most affected by climate impacts and social program resourcing. This included: BIPOC folks, folks experiencing homelessness, recovering addicts, and other low-income affected families. We interviewed people from these communities because we have not seen their input found or included in climate action and renewable energy transition plans in our region. As these people are most affected by climate impacts, we believe policies should be designed to first address their needs as the foundation of the “just transition.” 

How were participants engaged or invited? 

We have been working with over 85 low-income households enrolled in our Farms to Friends program, where with our network of volunteers, we deliver locally grown and produced food every week to their door steps. We started by contacting these households through email and phone. Additionally, we asked social service organizations to connect us to their clients for interviews, and we asked people interviewed if they could connect us to anyone else they knew who was low-income and who they thought would be willing to be interviewed. With good success, we were able to connect with a few via email and phone (about 5% of participants connected us with someone they knew). 

Who attended the conversation? 

EcoSociety’s Outreach Coordinator organized and conducted all the interviews with participants in 1:1 settings in-person or over the phone. She followed organizational covid protocols when in person. EcoSociety’s Organizing Director, joined Dea for one in-person interview day. 

Did your participant group reflect a range of lived experiences? 

There is a wide range of lived experiences included here in kooneys: Ones who migrated here from another country to gain a better life, ones who were raised on a farm agricultural experience, ones who are learning to live off the grid/ or sustainable living, different age groups ranging from 20’s to 80’s. Several are low income because they can’t work due to the pandemic or disabilities. There is a group of homeless and recovering addicts and ex-cons. Different ethnicities, and ages, including parents, grandparents, and guardians, varying disabilities, some experiencing homelessness, recovering addicts, ex-cons. Folks lived experiences also vary with how long they have lived in the region for. 

Were any key community groups absent? 

Non-low-income and non-marginalized groups were not interviewed as they are represented in previous engagement work on climate and energy in the region. 

Did you have high numbers of participants belonging to a certain community group? Most participant responses came from the largest town center in the West Kootenays, Nelson, which included many participants experiencing homelessness and addiction recovery due to our ability to connect with a social services group in Nelson who offered to support organizing the interviews and providing space. The majority of folks were Caucasian settlers. 

Did you make any specific considerations or accommodations to enable accessibility? Phone and in-person options were offered to participants. If in-person, the Outreach Coordinator traveled to their community to meet them. Participants from local organizations REDUM, ANKORS, and The HUB were unable to communicate over the phone, so interviews were conducted at the organizations’ centers in town. Due to COVID, the Outreach Coordinator wasn’t able to go to some senior residents so they interviewed over the phone. Additionally, all interviewees were given a $25 living wage honorarium to compensate for their time and experience provided in the interview. 

We recognize that “diversity” is a measure that can vary by community—some communities may have wide diversity in age or occupation but not in race or gender, or vice versa—so here we are asking for your qualitative evaluation based on your familiarity with the community and conversation participants. 

Participants’ diversity included race, age, gender, and occupation. Many folks travel for their occupations due to the rural nature and inaccessibility of transportation. In Castlegar and the surrounding area, it is starting to grow in diversity with race and occupations, as more international students are moving in this area for their studies and are building community. 

To complete this section, please summarize the preparatory work you did to determine who should be invited to the conversation. You can also draw on the identification forms filled out by participants during your conversation (which Project staff will send to you). You are welcome to include numeric data at your discretion and/or based on what you’d like to do with this report. 

As listed above, we first chose to approach participants of our Farms to Friends program who in turn connected us with anyone else they knew who were low income or interested in our program to be interviewed, about 5% of folks attempted to connect us with another participant. We then reached out to local social service organizations that represent low-income communities, folks experiencing homelessness, and the BIPOC community. 

Total participants from each West Kootenay community: 

● Trail-16 

● Genelle-1 

● Nelson-43 

● Salmo-9 

● Castlegar-16 

● Fruitvale-1 

● Montrose-1 

● North Shore-3 

● Rossland-6 

● New Denver-1 

● Kaslo-6 

● Balfour-1 

● Winlaw-1 

Participant self-identified demographics: 

● Homeless- 24 

● Low-income- 81 

● Ethnicity/BIPOC- 24 Indigenous, 5 Blacks, 5 Indians, 1 Hispanic 

F. The Community Conversation 

A brief description of what the conversation looked liked: 

● Where did it take place? 

The Outreach Coordinator conducted 30 in-person interviews, and the rest were done over the phone. 

● How was it structured? 

The interviews were structured to last for an hour. They began with rapport building and getting to know the participant such as where they were from, how long have they been living here, any family, their nationality if they felt comfortable to share, asking questions about how they felt about the Farm to Friends program if they were participants, then transitioned to talking about their housing and transportation needs, asked if proposed solutions in the West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy plan would support them, and then completed with contact information questions so that we could offer an honorarium for their time and experience. 

● Did you make any changes to the list of breakout group questions provided by the Green Resilience Project? 

○ We included: 

○ Q1: How could the changes to our community’s environment and economy discussed in the introduction affect you, your loved ones or the community as a whole? 

■ Q2: How do you think these environmental and economic changes 

relate to each other? 

■ We added Q2 as a follow up to Q1 to build off of each other and to 

support the flow and questions of the script. 

○ Q3. What do you think needs to be improved? What are some possible solutions to the challenges we’ve discussed that will help the community respond to climate change and create income security for all community members? 

○ Q4. Now that we’ve talked about these points, how do you think these solutions can be achieved to build, maintain or strengthen community resilience? Who is responsible for these changes—individuals, community groups, governments or a mix? 

● In your view, was the conversation a successful community event? Did you encounter any challenges while organizing it? 

Around the December holidays it was difficult to organize around folks schedules, throughout the interview process language barriers were encountered. The Outreach Coordinator wished to have reached more people in the BIPOC community – this partly speaks to the small population of BIPOC people in the West Kootenay region, and therefore the lack of organized groups within that community that we could reach out too. 

2. What We Heard 

This section summarizes participant responses to the questions asked during the conversation breakout sessions. For each question, please give a brief summary of the key points and ideas discussed across your breakout groups. Please include a selection of 5-10 anonymous quotes (total) to help illustrate key ideas. 

A. How are the changes to our community’s environment and economy discussed in the introduction affecting you, your family or the community as a whole? 

Participants primarily spoke to themselves and their families. Income insurity has risen, due to the pandemic many have lost their jobs, or sources of income, parents are forced to live off of savings and are now finding it a challenge to make sure all the needs of the house are taken care of. Comfort levels of folks have been affected; some don’t feel comfortable leaving the house in fear of getting sick which affects the income and source of food for the home. 

“It will lower our level of comfort which is good, which is based on exploiting nations to be comfortable.” 

“I am trying to stop using as much as I can, especially fossil fuels.” 

B. How are these environmental and economic changes related to each other? 

Many feel that positive environmental change would create jobs, and help people feel more supported. 

“I think renewable energy would affect everyone here, our bills would be affected and the environment would be much cleaner. I personally have done microscopic tests on the water in this area up near Trail and the tap water is full of particles and metals, we should think about the health of the people and make changes accordingly.” 

“Making more jobs maybe and perhaps bringing more people together, more unity”. 

“They are causally linked, we have developed a system based on positive feedback. Which is all based on profit. We need to become self-sustainable again.” 

C. What are some possible solutions to the challenges we’ve discussed that will help the community respond to climate change and create income security for all community members? 

Possible solutions discussed would be having and maintaining a community garden or community kitchen. When we implement more of the energy efficient proposals such as electric vehicles and charging stations it would create more jobs. Renovating abandoned structures to house ones who are homeless. Seniors could use more support as well with transportation and more affordable housing. More affordable and available housing, and more accessible transportation. Some even suggested more ride sharing for the low income and rural areas and seniors. 

“Setting up small community gardens or community kitchens so many people can help would be great.” 

D. How do you think these solutions can be achieved to build, maintain or strengthen community resilience? 

During the interviews several folks shared that being heard and listened to helps, and felt motivated to make changes where they could in their own lives. One participant asked, “how will these new prospects be afforded by low income households?” But they were still willing to also start making small steps in their own homes in the meantime, such as cutting back on commuting to use less fossil fuel, creating space for a small garden, composting, recycling, and shopping locally to support local farms. Others have expressed training on how to plant certain foods successfully in this climate, and creating more community bonds to support in transitioning out of low income households. 

Who is responsible for these changes—individuals, community groups, governments or a mix? 

Almost all have agreed that it’s a mix. There are different levels of change involved here, so on a personal level you can do small things like preserve energy or insulate your house or grow your own food or you can carpool. But on bigger things such as infrastructure and charging vehicles stations that’s a government thing. But as a community they have to work together to make a broader level change. 

“All! Everyone has a role and needs to play their role. We don’t own resources, we steward them.” 

3. What We Learned 

Please give a brief analysis of your conversation, drawing on your conversation data as well as the evaluation forms participants filled out at the end of the conversation (which Project staff will send to you). Your response should answer these questions. 

● Please summarize your perspective on the key points you listed in section two. Why were they important? 

Participants were passionate about their need for affordable housing to support them and their families, having reliable and more accessible transportation gives a sense of security. They shared the importance and security that would come with knowing you can have access to good food and clean water. 

● Were they brought up frequently, met with contention, surprising to you or your facilitators, etc.? 

The need for more affordable and lower income housing was commonly discussed, as well as the need to have more stable jobs, food and more general community support. Our approach in these 1:1 conversations was to ask questions and listen, we didn’t push back. 

● Was there a strong consensus on any of the key points? You are welcome to expand on any key points you find especially interesting. 

There was consensus around the need for communities to find reasonable, affordable, and accessible solutions to housing and transportation. Many folks here are very family orientated, and supportive to the community. Participants desire to be a part of a loving community with friends where they can support their families, however are struggling to support their families and afford their basic needs. There is also a strong need for higher wages or more financial stability for those on disability 

● To what extent do you think your conversation built wider and deeper understanding of the links and synergies between community resilience, livelihoods, income security and the low-carbon transition? Please explain your response. 

○ 1 – Not at all 

○ 2 

○ 3 – They were more aware that there are some viable solutions that exist. Some participants wanted to understand more of what they can do or what programs are available or are coming, and when those programs will start. Some described the interconnection like a pyramid, where governments are at the top and all the decisions they make and policies they set affect communities and their people, who are the foundations of our society. Governments have the most power to make changes and improve community resilience, livelihoods, income security and the speed up the low-carbon transition. 

○ 4 

○ 5 – Very much so 

● To what extent did participants demonstrate increased awareness of climate change and their own capacity for climate action? Please explain your response. ○ 1 – Not at all 

○ 2 

○ 3 

○ 4 – Many had not yet heard of the West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy Plan and when we discussed it, it motivated them to learn more about climate change and how changes have been proposed, and they were also motivated because they felt that their ideas mattered. 

○ 5 – Very much so 

● To what extent were new relationships between community partners and conversation participants created and fostered? Please explain your response. ○ 1 – Not at all 

○ 2 

○ 3 

○ 4 – Folks shared that having the opportunity to be heard and listened to was helpful in feeling more community support and comfort. This created a deeper relationship between our organization and these communities. Folks shared that they would love to offer more input if there are opportunities in the future to raise community awareness around these issues. 

○ 5 – Very much so 

● To what extent did your conversation create opportunities to foster ongoing discussion of solutions related to climate change, income insecurity and community resilience? Please explain your response. 

○ 1 – Not at all 

○ 2 

○ 3 

○ 4 – About 15% of participants showed interest in volunteering for the organization or being part of training that we might offer to the community. We gathered their contact information to share our final report and follow-up on opportunities to get involved. 

○ 5 – Very much so 

● In your opinion, what does the community need to do next in order to build or maintain resilience in the face of climate change and rising income insecurity? 

They need a start in the right direction with guidance and funding or contributions, if community gardens were created how can they help, some would benefit from having their own garden. Making sure they have the funds to take care of the needs around their homes, like renovations and having more energy efficient appliances around the house. Living wage should increase, without income security you are very limited on what you can do without full government support. 

They need to feel safe and secure within their community. They want real support from the government for more accessible, affordable housing, transportation and good healthy food. Some are very interested in having gardens, but lack funds or a place to plant. 

4. Next steps 

Did conversation participants identify next steps for continuing the conversation, or continuing advocacy related to the topics covered in the conversation? What were they? 

As the community partner organization, do you have a plan for continued advocacy on the topics explored in your community conversation? Are you able to share your plan with us at this time, and whether or how conversation participants might contribute to that plan? 

Following this report, all interview information, responses, and input on implementing the West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy Plan will be compiled into a report summarizing the demographics of the people interviewed and our conclusions and recommendations for priorities in implementation that support low-income, BIPOC and vulnerable people. 

This report will be presented to the 11 West Kootenay local governments who have committed to the transition to 100% renewable energy, other regional local governments, relevant Provincial and Federal ministries and local elected representatives, social service partners, supporters, the public, and of course the interviewed participants. 

Throughout the interview process, the Outreach Coordinator aimed to identify potential leaders that the EcoSociety could continue to build relationships with and support them to organize in their community however they thought was appropriate on the just renewable energy transition. Finally, participants who showed an interest in volunteering for the organization or being part of future training will be contacted when appropriate opportunities are available.