Dear Prime Minister:
The Boreal Leadership Council, first convened in December 2003, is comprised of leading conservation groups, First Nations, resource companies and financial institutions, all of which have an interest and a stake in the future of Canada’s Boreal Forest.
Members of the Council are signatories to the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework and are committed to implementing its national vision that will result in a network of large interconnected protected areas covering about half of Canada’s Boreal Forest while using leading-edge sustainable development practices in remaining areas, in respect of Indigenous and Treaty rights, and Indigenous Title.
Our multi-sectoral collaboration and leadership approach over the past decade has given us a unique understanding and perspective on the intersection of issues that are now dominating the social, political, economic agenda in Canada; namely that of Indigenous reconciliation, sustainable development, social license, environmental protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
With those priorities in mind, we are pleased to offer our support today for the establishment of a National Indigenous Guardians Program. Currently there is a patchwork of over 30 individual Guardian programs being run across Canada. They all offer the same benefits including:
Fostering young Indigenous leaders
A Guardian program can offer meaningful jobs and responsibilities that honour and value cultural tradition and re-establish the role of knowledge-keepers sharing with the younger generations. This creates inspiring new possibilities for Indigenous youth and their future. Young people learn traditional knowledge and western science, equipping them to become not just today’s Guardians but also future educators, lawyers, scientists, and legislators.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted that many communities’ traditional on-the-land connections have been lost, resulting in the breakdown of the social fabric within social communities. Indigenous youth are particularly vulnerable to alienation when erosion of social cohesion, loss of intergenerational learning, and disconnection from cultural practice, skills and purpose occur. Guardians programs have proven to have a positive impact on re-establishing those connections.
Shaping Land Use Decisions
Guardians play an integral role in the decision-making of their Nations, governments and communities about the land and all that depends on it. They provide the critical link between decision-making at the leadership level and the reality on-the-ground and in the community. They also help foster conversation and are therefore a key feature of the relationships among communities, governments, environmental organizations and companies, clarifying acceptable approaches to resource development including what conditions to apply.
Guardians play a critical role in environmental protection, they are the “eyes on the ground”. They are on the front lines and are often first to identify changes in biodiversity including changes to threatened and invasive species, threats to healthy forests including the globally significant boreal forest and more urgent issues including forest fires.
Indigenous reconciliation is at the heart of sustainable economic development and environmental protection in Canada. When Guardians are on the land watching and managing activities, communities can feel safer letting development proceed.
The time is now to establish a First Nation led National Guardian program that will build from the success and experience of the 30 or so existing programs. We believe this initiative can advance the challenges of reconciliation, conservation, climate change, social license and sustainable resource development.
We would be happy to engage with you or departmental officials should you have any questions about the Boreal Leadership Council or the National Guardians Program.