Protecting more nature in partnership with Indigenous Peoples
In 2018, we worked in partnership with the Dehcho First Nations to establish Edéhzhíe, which became Canada’s first Indigenous protected and conserved area. Edéhzhíe in the Northwest Territories represents over 4,000 square kilometres of land, protects headwaters, is home to boreal caribou, and is of cultural and spiritual significance for the Dehcho and Tlicho Dene. This was and remains a major step forward on how we not just protect nature, but do it right by working in partnership with Indigenous communities and by listening when Indigenous people tell us that walking forward on reconciliation and making progress on conservation must go together, and if Edéhzhíe was a major step on the shared journey, then what we’re announcing today is a leap forward.
This morning, I am announcing that Canada will invest up to $800 million in four major Indigenous-led conservation projects across the country, representing a total of nearly 1 million square kilometres.
There will be a conservation project in the Great Bear Sea, another in Northern Ontario—the Omushkego Conservation project—one project in the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut, and one in the Northwest Territories. Each project is unique in its own way and, in a few moments, their representatives will tell you more about them.
Canada will provide up to $800 million to support four major Indigenous-led conservation projects across the country covering almost a million square kilometres. Each of these projects is different because each of these projects is designed by communities for communities. On the Pacific coast in the Great Bear Sea, we’re supporting the group representing 17 First Nations to deliver an integrated bioregional marine conservation and sustainability initiative. Heading north, you’ll reach protected boreal forests, rivers, and lands across the Northwest Territories in a project that s a partnership between 30 Indigenous governments across the territory, supported by the Government of Canada. From there, east and even further north will take you to the Qikiqtani region and a vast network of protected waters and land, safeguarded through Inuit stewardship and governance founded on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. And then south, to Western James Bay in the world’s third-largest wetland and a vision of stewardship led by the Omushkego Cree.
These projects are as much about community well-being as they are about protecting nature. We know that to create jobs and foster a strong economy, we must absolutely fight climate change. And the same goes for protecting nature.
Communities have been clear. Safeguarding lands and waters will help build a strong future for generations to come. As a government, our role is to listen and support that vision. That has been our approach with other initiatives like the Indigenous Guardians Program, which supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people on stewardship over traditional lands, waters, and ice. The role of partner underpins our approach with these new projects too, alongside others who’ve committed to join this work. I want to recognize also the leaders from foundations and philanthropic organizations who are part of stepping up to help make these four projects a reality. After all, conservation and protection take money for land planning work, for funding for communities on stewardship and monitoring, for supporting local jobs and growth. It takes resources to create a conservation economy where caring for the land is a career opportunity and where people can be stewards of their own homes. By working together, we’re able to deliver that major necessary support. No individual partners could provide a loan, and that brings me to why it matters that we be announcing this today as Canada welcomes the world to the largest nature COP we’ve ever seen.
Today, we have taken a major step in protecting nature and we’re doing it in partnership. Today, all gathered together in Montréal, we are calling on everyone to take action. The entire world must do more to protect nature, but we must also do it well. I hope the other countries will take action. We hope that the next two weeks will confirm our collective engagement and lead to global action. We have a lot to do to protect nature and we have a lot to do to move forward on the path of reconciliation; we are showing that we are doing it together.