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One year since COP15: Protecting nature and strengthening communities in partnership with Indigenous Peoples

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First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities have been the guardians of the land, waters, and ice for millennia, and across the country, Indigenous Peoples are leading large-scale efforts to conserve and steward these spaces. By supporting these initiatives, and working together on a shared path of reconciliation, we will continue to protect nature, strengthen communities, and grow local economies with good jobs and opportunities for generations to come.

One year ago, on the margins of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Montréal, Quebec, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced up to $800 million to support four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. This long-term, multi-partner funding approach, through the innovative Project Finance for Permanence model, is designed to bring together government, community, and philanthropic support to protect nature while supporting local economic growth based on conservation and sustainable resource use. These Indigenous-led conservation models will protect some of Canada’s most diverse and sensitive ecosystems, including projects in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, and Ontario. Taken together, these initiatives will protect up to one million square kilometres of land and waters in Canada.

Today, the Prime Minister joined partners in highlighting important progress made over the past year on advancing these landmark Indigenous-led projects, including:

  • The signing of an Agreement in Principle for the Qikiqtani Project Finance for Permanence in eastern Nunavut to create one of the largest networks of Inuit-led protected areas worldwide. Using Inuit knowledge and practices, this initiative would empower local communities to manage almost one million square kilometres of lands and waters in the region, while creating good jobs and new opportunities;
  • The signing of a historic Framework Agreement between 26 partners to the Northwest Territories Project Finance for Permanence – one of the largest Indigenous-led land conservation initiatives in the world. Once completed, this agreement could contribute at least 2.5 per cent toward Canada’s commitment to protect 30 per cent of our lands and waters by 2030;
  • The endorsing of the Marine Protected Area Network Action Plan for the Great Bear Sea by 17 First Nations, as well as the governments of Canada and British Columbia. This initiative will help protect the Northern Shelf Bioregion, preserving local waters and ocean life, including endangered whales, ancient corals, salmon, and sea birds; and
  • The ongoing work in partnership with the Mushkegowuk Council to conserve the Omushkego Homelands – a significant part of the boreal forest and the Hudson’s Bay Lowlands, in Ontario and Nunavut – while advancing local economic growth.

These Indigenous-led projects are a gift to Canada and to our shared future, and we remain committed to a whole-of-government approach – and to working with all partners, including provinces and territories – to further advance successful negotiations over the coming months. As committed to at COP15, the Government of Canada has provided funding for their long-term success through a model that also leverages philanthropic support. By working together in partnership, we can build a new model for stewardship in these regions; a model that helps them thrive now and long into the future, and protects land, water, and ice for generations to come.

Quotes

“Protecting nature and walking forward on the shared path of reconciliation can and must go together. A year ago, as the world gathered in Montréal for COP15, I stood with representatives from Indigenous-led conservation projects in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Nunavut, and Ontario, and committed that the federal government would be there as their partner. In the year since, together, we have made real progress, advancing projects that will not only protect huge amounts of nature, but will also create local growth and opportunities. Today and always, Canada will be there as a partner to support communities’ visions of a strong, healthy future for generations to come.”

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“Our Nations have proven that Indigenous-led conservation, backed by durable finance, delivers real returns for nature, for the economy, and for communities. We are pleased to be working with Canada and British Columbia to deliver the Great Bear Sea PFP – a ground-breaking initiative that will protect our coasts, create jobs, rebuild abundant and sustainable commercial fisheries, and strengthen coastal communities.”

K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, President of the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative, and Dallas Smith, President of the Nanwakolas Council

“We have stewarded our Homelands for millennia, and we will do the same for generations yet to come. Without our lands and waters, we do not exist as a People. Conserving our Homelands is also a gift to the world. The lands and waters that have sustained the Omushkego have cooled and continue to cool the planet, keeping us all safe from even worse impacts of climate change. In the spirit of wahkohtowin – the relationships that we all have to each other and to Mother Earth – we welcome working in a whole-of-government approach with leaders of both the province and the federal government to deliver on a vision for our region. A vision of conservation and also, where Nations agree, of access to the minerals critical to the green transition the world needs.”

Leo Friday, Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council

“Our vision is for every community in the Qikiqtani region to permanently participate in the stewardship and monitoring of our lands and waters through increasing local food security while passing Inuit knowledge between generations. Through the partnerships we are building, we can see that our vision of Inuit-led conservation can be realized. We look forward to securing final agreements that will confirm relationships and resources that will allow Qikiqtani Inuit the ability to deliver our vision in each community across our region.”

Olayuk Akesuk, President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association

“Many partners have come together around a shared vision for supporting Indigenous-led conservation in the Northwest Territories. After the devastating 2023 wildfires, it was inspiring to see 26 signatories come together this fall to support conservation, community well-being, capacity building, stewardship, reconciliation, and cultural revitalization. When finalized, the Northwest Territories PFP will create one of the largest Indigenous-led land conservation initiatives in the world. Investments that match the scale of our shared vision will enable transformative benefits for years to come.”

Jackson Lafferty, Grand Chief of the Tłı̨chǫ Government

Quick Facts

  • Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) provides a multi-partner investment and sustainable financing for large-scale conservation and sustainable development.
  • These Indigenous-led PFP projects bring together Indigenous organizations, governments, and the philanthropic community to identify shared goals for protecting nature and ultimately halting biodiversity loss while advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
  • The federal contribution of up to $800 million in funding announced last year is helping leverage third-party investments to contribute toward Canada’s conservation targets and advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
  • Grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge, and local perspectives, Canada is committed to working with partners to conserve 25 per cent of lands and waters by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.
  • The Government of Canada has made historic investments in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, including through initiatives like the Indigenous Guardians program.
  • In December 2022, Canada welcomed the world to Montréal, Quebec, for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, where we renewed the call for ambitious action to protect nature. At the Conference, Canada played a leading role in adopting the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework, a historic international agreement with over 190 countries to help protect nature and reverse biodiversity loss around the world.

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