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New executive director of Ecology North takes helm on cusp of organization's 50th anniversary

Facing the challenges of climate change calls for managing the transition to green energy while being equitable and fair to communities, said Dawn Tremblay, the new executive director of Ecology North. photo courtesy of Ecology North

With the new year comes a new executive director for Ecology North.

“It's kind of exciting. It feels nice to be able to provide some continuity and stability to the team in a different year,” said Dawn Tremblay, the environmental organization's new leader.

Tremblay served in an interim role since September, following the departure of former executive director Craig Scott, who left the position last year.

Facing the challenges of climate change calls for managing the transition to green energy while being equitable and fair to communities, said Dawn Tremblay, the new executive director of Ecology North.
photo courtesy of Ecology North

But while Tremblay is new to the position, she's a veteran member of the environmental group.

Born in Fort Simpson and raised in Yellowknife, Tremblay joined Ecology North in 2010 after returning to the NWT following her graduation from the University of Alberta, where she attained degrees in political science and French.

“(I'm) also a certified compost operator,” she said.

She started out as an office administrator and spent most of the last 11 years working as a project manager.

“For the past four years I've been lucky enough to focus on the big project of working with the City of Yellowknife on the centralized composting program. I could go out to the compost facility and work with the team there. It was a good combination of outside work and office work.”

Looking ahead in 2021, Tremblay admitted that it's tough to pinpoint what will be the main environmental issues facing the NWT.

“If I've learned anything from 2020 it's that you can never know what's coming in 2021!” she said, laughing.

However, climate change and how governments are responding to it are top of mind for her.

In the short-term, governments need to focus on formulating a clear climate change policy with reduced emissions targets, according to Tremblay.

“It would be important to get it right,” she said. “It might be a daunting task but we need to make it happen in an equitable and fair way and I wouldn't want to see it done in a way that disadvantages people and their communities. You wouldn't want to disadvantage a community that relies on diesel power plants. It's a matter of facilitating that transition towards sustainable green energy. We need to work towards reducing our emissions and work towards more sustainable energy sources.”

Climate change doesn't just mean warmer temperatures, but also less consistent weather patterns.

“(There's) the changing consistency of access to the winter road season. Even with the Dettah ice road, two years ago the ice castle (melted and) flooded. We rely on that consistency for getting out onto the land, getting out the cabin and hauling supplies,” said Tremblay.

As those issues make themselves felt in the NWT, she sees Ecology North providing education to the public.

“Even if you don't consider yourself an environmentalist, I look forward to working with you and bringing people and knowledge together for a healthy Northern environment that includes and benefits all of us,” she said.

In terms of concrete actions for 2021, Tremblay said she's focused on Ecology North's new strategic plan that covers 2020-2023. Among the document's objectives are developing tools that can be used by multiple communities over long-term periods; engaging youth to become advocates and environmental stewards; providing training opportunities and educating on climate change mitigation, water stewardship, waste reduction, biodiversity conservation and local food production.

She's also looking forward to making some milestone events happen, regardless of progress of Covid-19 vaccinations.

“Our annual coffee house (happens) during Earth Week in April. We weren't able to gather in person last year. This year we'll make it happen. We could do it outside, we can be creative. It's going to be a fun challenge,” she said.

Another highlight is the Young Leaders Summit on Northern Climate Change in August, a biennial event that was first held in Inuvik in 2009.

Most prominently for Ecology North will be its 50th anniversary bash later this year. The precise time of the celebration hasn't been set because there's still ongoing research into the most appropriate date, Tremblay said.

“According to the lore of the organization, there was a date that it first met and then there was a date when it was incorporated as a society. And then we gained charity status after that," she said. "So we'd love to hear stories from folks. We'll be reaching out to some of our 'founding fathers,' so to speak.”