Understanding and Assessing Impacts
The Outaouais has experienced several health emergencies due to extreme weather events, which have highlighted the need for the CISSS to adapt to climate change and increase the resilience of the local health and social services system in the region. According to the Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity, Gatineau will be one of the most vulnerable cities to heat events in Canada. This Assessment further indicates that the Outaouais region will be more exposed to extreme heat waves, flooding, torrential and intense rains, an increasing number of freezing and thawing episodes, windstorms, and wildfires. While the population is known to be extremely at-risk to heat waves based on data from previous heat events, there is a need to better project vulnerability to localized climate hazards to ensure that essential services and those responsible for emergency measures can respond appropriately. As such, the objectives of this project were to identify and analyze the risks of projected climate change by 2050 and design an action plan that would support the resilience of social and public health services in the Outaouais region. The project benefited from the support of several Quebec ministries and organizations, in particular the INSPQ and the Department of Infrastructure Conservation of the Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec (MSSS), as well as the expertise of the academic community and external consultants. These actors collaborated within several committees, which ensured the smooth running of the different stages of the project. The vulnerability assessment work included data collection, assessment of key vulnerabilities, and consultations with stakeholders.
The consultations were to be carried out in 2020 through in-person workshops with municipal stakeholders, but, due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshops had to be postponed and adapted into virtual sessions that were carried out the following year. Nonetheless, 31 Outaouais municipalities were consulted to discuss the impacts of climate risks on local services and their health and wellbeing. CISSS used questionnaires to assess the population’s health risks to climate hazards. The information collected during these consultation sessions helped identify at-risk populations and provided more localized data on climatic hazards.
The data collected through this project used a health equity lens, which helped demonstrate the relevance of the work undertaken. A profile of climate risks was developed based on demographic data, data on past climate risks, and climate projections of expected future risks. The consultation workshops helped enrich this content, and it was also supplemented by internal publications and climate data provided by Ouranos, a research institute, and the federal and provincial governments. This portrait revealed the repercussions of climate change events and their consequences on health at the community level.