Ottawa: Wed. Mar. 22, 2017: The movement to create a National Indigenous Guardians Network gained new ground today when the government of Canada included an initial investment of $25 million over 5 years in the 2017-2018 federal budget. While this investment will not enable new guardian programs to be established immediately, this seed funding will help develop the national network and prepare Indigenous Nations and communities to launch their own Indigenous Guardians programs.
“Indigenous Guardians serve as stewards on the land,” said Stephen Kakfwi, a senior advisor with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI). “With this investment, the federal government has made a down payment on a model that will benefit Indigenous Nations, Canada as a whole, and the land and water we all depend upon.”
ILI advocated for the National Indigenous Guardians Network in an effort to support Indigenous stewardship and strengthen Nation-to-Nation and Inuit-to-Crown relationships. “Caring for the land is the root of Indigenous Nationhood,” said Ovide Mercredi, a senior advisor with ILI. “This budget commitment acknowledges the leadership of Indigenous Peoples in determining the future of our lands.”
There are approximately 30 existing Indigenous Guardians programs across Canada helping communities manage the land. They draft land use plans, study wildlife and monitor development projects. They also help their communities establish Indigenous Protected Areas—areas that will help Canada achieve its conservation goals.
Australia has developed a similar, hugely successful model. Over ten years, the federal government has invested approximately AUD $618 million in the “Working on Country” program, which has created a network of 109 Indigenous Ranger groups managing 177 million hectares of land and sea, including 75 Indigenous Protected Areas. Several studies indicate that every $1 invested generates $3.50 in value.
Comparable benefits have been documented in Canada. A recent study of Indigenous Guardians programs in the Northwest Territories found that every dollar invested in the programs generated $2.50 in social, economic and environmental value. Sustained federal funding would increase the value to $3.70.
“Indigenous Guardians programs strengthen our communities,” said Valérie Courtois, the Director of ILI. “They create jobs, lower crime rates and improve public health. But most importantly, they inspire our young people. They connect them to the land and their elders. They give them professional training tied to their language and culture. That offers hope that can combat the despair so many Indigenous youth feel today.”
Creating a National Indigenous Guardians Network will bring these benefits to more Indigenous Peoples. That’s why the Assembly of First Nations, individual First Nations, industry organizations, NGOs, Cabinet Ministers and more than 50 MPs support it.
With this investment, the federal government is taking a first step to support the network and implement their commitment to renewed Nation-to-Nation and Inuit-to-Crown relationships. ILI applauds the leadership of Minister Catherine McKenna, who together with other cabinet colleagues has championed the need for Indigenous Guardians and Indigenous Protected Areas nationally. ILI looks forward to working closely with Ministers McKenna and Bennett on the further development of this proposal.
In all our meetings with ministers and officials, ILI has emphasized that a network built government to government, Nation-to-Nation, Inuit-to-Crown, will yield the greatest benefits for all. Indigenous Peoples will gain greater self-determination, economic opportunity and much needed hope for healthier young people. Such an approach would also help the federal government honour its commitments to promote reconciliation, increase job opportunities and engage youth, while also addressing climate change and other conservation goals.
While much work remains, the ILI will continue working with our partners in Indigenous governments and the federal, territorial and provincial governments to build on this first step, and together achieve our vision for a fully implemented National Indigenous Guardians Network.
For more information on Indigenous Guardians, please visit: ilinationhood.ca
Media Contact: Sean Durkan. 613-851-2151 firstname.lastname@example.org