Strong Neighbours Climate Change Resilience Program

In 2022, the City of Greater Sudbury, with support from ICLEI Canada, initiated the Strong Neighbours project in neighbourhoods vulnerable to heat waves, flooding, sewage backups and power outages. The aim of this project was to enhance community climate resilience through the implementation of neighbour-led climate adaptation actions, including tree planting, rain garden installation, shaded seating, and water filling stations. Greater Sudbury is Northern Ontario’s largest city, known for its leadership in nickel mining and other mining-related industries, with a population of over 166,000 residing around 330 lakes. Over the past several decades, the city has experienced rising temperatures leading to more heat waves, changes in precipitation resulting in heavy rainfall, and increased storms leading to infrastructure damage as a result of climate change. To increase community resilience to climate change, the City of Greater Sudbury joined the Advancing Adaptation program in 2022, led by ICLEI Canada. Through this program, Greater Sudbury initiated the Strong Neighbours project which focused on the implementation of community-oriented adaptive actions over the course of 2 years. With participatory support from the city, residents learned about climate change and selected and implemented adaptation actions. Projects included flood-risk reduction through tree planting near Junction Creek; rain-water redirection at Lively Park in Walden using eavestrough extensions leading to a rain barrel and a community-installed rain garden; and heat-related health measures in the Flour Mill by installing a water filling station, bench umbrella holders and distributing refillable water bottles. The success of the Strong Neighbours project demonstrates the positive impact of local climate action on community resilience and its ability to influence other neighbourhoods to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Over the past decades, Greater Sudbury has experienced rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and extreme weather events, including floods. These events have had significant infrastructural, economic, and social impacts, underscoring the need for preparedness. To understand future vulnerabilities, Greater Sudbury referred to ICLEI Canada’s 2016 Climate Science Report. The report used two AR4 scenarios, high emission scenario (A2) and low emission scenario (B1), to project future climate changes for the region, including increased hot days above 30°C, changes in water quality, and extreme precipitation. Water level changes in Greater Sudbury Lakes due to being part of the Great Lakes system could lead to less ice cover, decreased precipitation, and higher temperatures, affecting water levels and quality. Data presented in this report was based on global climate models and emission scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drawing from both the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) and Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) publications. Temperature and precipitation change data were also constructed using Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Climate Data and Scenarios (CCDS) tool, which provided information from nearby weather stations.

Further, data from the Climate Atlas of Canada and was used in various presentations to describe projected changes for Greater Sudbury in mean annual temperature, days above 30°C, last date of spring frost, and mean annual precipitation for the 2021-2050 and 2051-2080 time periods. Access to local climate data was important for this project as it demonstrated local change, which motivated community members to participate and take action. This data was also included in presentations to municipal council along with snapshots of local news reports to encourage buy-in and to convey the benefit of creating a resilient community.

A list of 11 impact statements identified through a vulnerability and risk assessment exercise completed at ICLEI’s Train the Trainer workshop held in 2017 were presented to various stakeholders, including Community Action Networks (CAN’s), municipal staff at Public Health Sudbury & Districts, Water and Wastewater Services, Emergency Management, utility companies, Junction Creek Stewardship Committee, and the Nickel District Conservation Authority. Greater Sudbury also considered information related to the local topography (e.g., communities located in floodplains), as well as socio-economic data (e.g., demographics) to identify target neighbourhoods and their associated impacts. These included: heat waves at Claude Charbonneau Park in the Flour Mill, basement flooding at the Lively Playground in Walden, and flooding causing infrastructure damage in Junction Creek.

Identifying Actions

To increase awareness about the Strong Neighbours initiative and to identify community leads, or ‘Strong Neighbour Champions’, Greater Sudbury held a series of stakeholder engagement events at local libraries and community centres. They invited local volunteer groups and residents to hear a presentation about the specific climate change impacts facing their neighbourhoods as well as examples of potential adaptive measures.

At first, the City experienced some public resistance. For one community, using the term “flooding” raised concerns about a large river that flooded every year, which was not within the scope of the project. The project team adjusted the focus to address ‘basement flooding through household stormwater management’, which resonated with many residents and helped gain their support. Second, the public perceived the City as responsible for issues related to flooding. To inform them about the role of climate change, they presented information on climate change science, projected changes in temperature and precipitation, mitigation, adaptation responses, and the importance of neighbourhood resiliency. Incorporating an element of awareness and knowledge building into the community outreach proved a successful approach to increasing local residents’ knowledge about climate change and for motivating them to take action.

Through engagement, three community networks (Walden CAN, Flour Mill CAN, and Junction Creek Stewardship Committee) volunteered to lead projects. They reviewed a list of suggested adaptation actions proposed by the City, considering local context, community capacity, public acceptability, ongoing actions, and financial feasibility. Using an evaluation matrix, they scored the actions based on sustainability, effectiveness, risk and uncertainty, opportunity, and implementation considerations, understanding the trade-offs between different options. The results of that exercise were used to inform the choice of actions, but ultimately, actions were selected by the community leads. One example of local influence was choosing adaptation elements in public spaces less susceptible to vandalism, addressing a prevalent concern. In one location, they placed heavy rocks inside and chains around a rain barrel to deter theft from the park. In another location, the community members agreed to help monitor the use of a pop-up tent so that it can be borrowed for a short time but not kept outside.


After reviewing the proposed adaptation actions, Greater Sudbury’s community groups selected actions suitable for their needs and capacity. In Claude Charbonneau Park, the Flour Mill CAN addressed extreme heat by installing a water mist and cooling system, a water-bottle filling station, and distributing reusable water bottles and sun umbrellas to students at local schools, labelled “Keepin’ chill in the Flour Mill/Combattre la chaleur dans le Moulin à fleur”. They also added a pop-up tent and a picnic table with an umbrella holder for shade. To combat basement flooding caused by stormwater runoff in the Lively Playground neighbourhood, the Lively CAN installed eavestroughs to the park gazebo that connected to a rain barrel and drained into a rain garden that the group planted. This action promoted the benefits of downspout disconnection and ways to use re-directed rainwater for gardening and other purposes. During a public event, Lively CAN gave out eavestrough extensions and had a raffle for a rain barrel. At the Flour Mill Arboretum along Junction Creek, the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee focused on shoreline restoration, planting native trees and shrubs, and installing beaver guards. They delivered a climate change presentation to a local youth group and had a few tree/shrub planting events for the community. Additionally, the City supported the installation of a water filling station at the Morel Family Foundation Park to help community members stay hydrated during hot summer months. Finally, a ‘Strong Neighbours’ magnet was distributed to all neighbourhoods. Homeowners are encouraged to fill out their neighbours contact information on empty squares on the magnet so they can easily check on them during power outages, heat waves, or water shortages.

Though all actions were completed, challenges in implementation arose due to obtaining approvals for City property work and delays in utility locating services. To address such challenges in the future, the City recommends early contact with utility companies and all affected departments during project planning. Funding constraints limited the ability to receive approvals for certain shade structures requiring a cement base. To avoid the costs and restrictions, community members creatively welded umbrella holders to existing benches and agreed to manage a folding picnic table with an umbrella and pop-up tent that will be brought in and out of the playground building as needed. The City recommends exploring cost-effective alternatives early on in the project planning.

Strong Neighbours Climate Change Resilience Program

The Flour Mill Community Action Network distributed reusable water bottles and sun umbrellas to students at local schools, labelled with the “Keepin’ chill in the Flour Mill/Combattre la chaleur dans le Moulin à fleur” slogan (City of Greater Sudbury, 2023).

Image of a sustainable urban rainwater management project in the City of Vancouver. The schematic includes incorporation of greenscaping as a way of not only beautifying the streetscape, but also to provide functional purposes such as rainwater management and small areas of habitat refugia. The image shows the integration of sustainable design with climate adaptation actions. Specific foci are on the inclusion of more city street trees, native plants, areas for pollinators, rain gardens, and the creation of common spaces for gathering.
Strong Neighbours Climate Change Resilience Program

To manage stormwater run-off, the Lively Community Action Network planted a rain garden at the Lively playground (Greater Sudbury, 2023).

Image of a sustainable urban rainwater management project in the City of Vancouver. The schematic includes incorporation of greenscaping as a way of not only beautifying the streetscape, but also to provide functional purposes such as rainwater management and small areas of habitat refugia. The image shows the integration of sustainable design with climate adaptation actions. Specific foci are on the inclusion of more city street trees, native plants, areas for pollinators, rain gardens, and the creation of common spaces for gathering.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The Strong Neighbours initiative uniquely demonstrates that community members play an important role in achieving community climate resilience. The project highlights that homeowners and residents hold valuable knowledge about how climate change affects their communities, making their insights essential in selecting appropriate adaptive measures for their local context. The project aimed to benefit both local residents and the broader community by gradually enhancing one neighbourhood at a time to become more resilient to climate change impacts. Originally, the project planned to work on two sites, but due to high levels of community interest, a total of four neighbourhoods completed adaptation projects. The ‘Strong Neighbours’ magnet was a very successful product. The design was so popular that other Cities have requested to use it. The City plans on distributing these magnets at all planned events and will be providing them to organizations that work with vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous, youth, seniors, and low-income residents. To monitor the success of this work, the City will conduct periodic site visits to evaluate usage. However, the ultimate responsibility for ensuring materials are in working order and making necessary adjustments lies with the community leads. The City is seeking additional guidance and support on effectively monitoring progress, especially in neighbour-led initiatives like Strong Neighbours.

Next Steps

Community groups and the City will continue to engage community members to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change, the neighbour-led adaptive measures underway, and ways they can contribute to healthier, more resilient neighbourhoods. In particular, community groups will continue to engage youth and members of the public in activities that take place at the site of implemented adaptation actions to create a sense of community, ownership, and pride – an effort that may help overcome issues of vandalism.

Greater Sudbury recognizes that neighbourhoods across Greater Sudbury would benefit from undertaking their own project. The fourth installment within the Strong Neighbours project was a water-filling station at a popular playground; however, time did not allow for engagement with the neighbourhood groups. Engagement with that neighbourhood is planned for 2023.

The City plans to encourage other neighbourhoods to take action by promoting existing sites to other neighbourhoods through signage and holding information sessions. The project team believes it’s feasible to continue to do projects in smaller segments over time across Greater Sudbury neighbourhoods. Using the limited funds available in the municipal budget, the project team will continue to seek support from local politicians, businesses and community groups who are important changemakers.