Date: 26 May 2009

Climate change and Ontario forests: Prospects for building institutional adaptive capacity

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Institutions play an important role in the adaptive capacity of a system in responding to climate change. This review paper characterizes the status of the collective institutional response (government, industry, First Nation, community, civil society) to climate change in the forest sector of the Canadian province of Ontario, and highlights the presence and nature of inter-institutional networks as part of the response. Based on a synthesis of the commonalities in the public administration and policy literature on tackling wicked problems, and the resilience literature, inter-institutional networks, which foster exchange of different types of knowledge, are an important aspect of enhancing the adaptive capacity of social–ecological systems such as the forest sector. Based on a content analysis of publicly available documents and insights gained from representatives of government, community members and non-governmental organizations, mitigation and adaptations strategies are described. At the provincial level there have been some new innovations in inter-institutional networks, but expansion of the forest stakeholders involved in such networks would further enhance adaptive capacity. In particular, it is important to network with First Nations and other forest-dependent communities who have a heightened vulnerability to climate change. The presence of a collaborative capacity builder could foster the transfer, receipt and integration of knowledge across the networks, and ultimately build long-term collaborative problem-solving capacity in the Ontario forest sector.

In Canada, the Constitution Act of 1982 specifies that the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada consist of three groups—Indians, Inuit and Métis. However, the term First Nations is now more commonly used to replace Indian, which some people found offensive. Despite its widespread use, there is no legal definition of the term, First Nations, in Canada (Assembly of First Nations 2009).