This year, in 2023, CRHNet celebrates 20 years as the leading Canadian disaster risk management community. As I reflect on this, I think about all the reasons that CRHNet has been able to reach this important milestone. Like my own personal motto (also tattooed on my person as a permanent, grounding reminder and outward celebration), I believe that CRHNet’s success can be summed up in just three words: courage, wisdom, and luck.
Courage to have great leaders with foresight to identify a gap in our evolving field of practice and study and create this amazing organization to bring together committed people to share ideas and knowledge that will help to make Canada a safer, more resilient country in the face of disaster risks. I want to personally acknowledge this courage and thank our past presidents Larry Pearce, David Etkin, Emdad Haque, Ron Kuban, Ernest MacGillivray, Michel Dore, Patricia Martel for their leadership. You all demonstrated courage and strength through your leadership and advocacy for CRHNet over the years, and your legacy lives on with the emerging professionals of tomorrow, who have been equally inspired by your work. I also would like to acknowledge the long-standing contributions of Marion Boon, for all of her work in helping CRHNet become what it is today, and all previous board members.
Wisdom to know that we are stronger together, only when we have people working across their organizational/geographical structures and boundaries to collaborate and innovate so that we can better address the myriad of challenges that we all collectively face. We also need to be committed to always learning, which means acknowledging that just because we did something a particular way in the past, does not at all mean that is correct for our future. We know more now than we did before about disaster risk management, and we need to embrace change in order to adapt. This includes acknowledging the importance of learning about, and embracing, the ways of knowing of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Luck in that timing is everything. We have had the right people involved in our organization, at all of the right times, and we have been able to take incredible ideas and turn them into great opportunities to share, as we have seen with HazNet, and its incredible success realized by the creative geniuses of Lily and her team, who have seized the opportunity to use storytelling and art as a way to educate, inspire action, and inform discussions. We have seen many changes in our boards, but with each new iteration, we get new energy and ideas, and we have been enabled by the systems that placed people and their knowledge in CHRNet’s path. We have also managed to survive the shocks and disruptions that came with events like the pandemic, thanks to our good fortune of having dedicated members, partners, and sponsors who supported us along the way. We also continue to have access to some great talent and minds, both on our board, and within our membership, and we are indeed lucky to have had such incredible, resilient individuals who were able to contribute to building, sustaining and growing CRHNet over its history, and into its future.
So, although we should always honour and celebrate our history, we need to also be able to clearly focus our attention on what lies ahead. My hope for CRHNet is that we continue to be the trusted network of networks for all emerging professionals in the DRR and climate change adaptation space for many years to come. I hope that our organization continues to grow and become more inclusive of the stakeholders who have historically been underrepresented in risk reduction and climate resiliency, like those experts working in critical infrastructure, urban planning, engineering, information technology, and social sciences. Even more so than these specializations, I hope to see us disrupt the status quo and recognize multiple knowledge systems. The predominant western schools of thought that have shaped our field are only just starting to understand and appreciate the depth and significance of Indigenous Knowledge, held by the longest inhabitants and stewards of this land on which we all live and learn. My hope is that we can develop stronger and more collaborative partnerships to work alongside and with Indigenous Peoples to build a better and more resilient Canada. I hope that we continue to mentor and support our next generation of DRR leaders, while also acknowledging that the challenges they face may not be the same as the ones that we were focused on in our careers, so that the learning can be a mutually beneficial experience. Mostly, I hope that we continue to evolve as a community of practice, to become a fully recognized professional discipline, with appropriate positions being created across all sectors to ensure that DRR, climate change adaptation and resilience are front and centre in all development decisions, plans, and initiatives.
As an action-oriented individual, I am excited about the opportunities that await us to translate research and theory into practice, and to have current and future practice inform our research, in a way that considers the unique nuances that persist in our communities and organizations, so that we can achieve realistic, measurable, and meaningful results in resiliency-building today, instead of “someday.” We need a collective and concerted effort to demonstrate and celebrate progress in achieving our goals, and I believe that CRHNet has a significant role to play in this regard.
This is why I am so excited about this year’s Symposium event, planned for October 24-26 in Edmonton, Alberta, which is ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan), Treaty 6 Territory. We are planning an event that will enable relationship building, innovation and idea sharing, and most importantly, learning that can be applied once our participants go back to their respective communities and organizations. We can’t do this though without your participation as facilitators, disruptors, innovators, and conversation starters, as well as active and open-minded participants in an experience that will be more inclusive and engaging than a typical symposia-style event. If we are acknowledging the need for change, we know that we need to be willing to lead change, and it is our intention to offer the type of programming that aligns with the requirement for better, and different, stakeholder collaboration that has been identified as being critical in our efforts to enable DRR as a function and practice across all sectors, rather than just a framework.
I hope to see you all as participants at this year’s event in Alberta, which is not only my home province, and a source of great pride, but also the place where we hosted our first CRHNet event 20 years ago. It will be both a celebration and a source of inspiration so that we can keep on doing the good work that needs to be done. Please continue to check the CRHNet website for more details on this event as they become available.
As always, please enjoy this edition of HazNet and consider ways in which you can contribute to future articles. Remember as well to renew your membership, update your member profiles, and check out our events calendar to see what other events and opportunities are coming up.