August 5th, 2021
Support for Indigenous-led Forest Stewardship
MPs Collins and MacGregor write to Minister for the Environment and Climate Change
July 29, 2021
The Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Wilkinson,
We are writing to you today to raise the issue of support for Indigenous-led forest stewardship. We believe that it is of vital importance that the federal government provide necessary funding to Indigenous communities who want to take back stewardship of their traditional territories.
We have heard concerns from many of our constituents, as well as from Canadians across the country, about the preservation of our precious ancient old-growth forests. We welcome the recent Hišuk ma cawak Declaration of the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht First Nations, which aims to take back stewardship authority over their traditional territories.
You are no doubt aware that several other First Nations in British Columbia are also announcing their intention to take back control of resource stewardship in their traditional territories, and that many of these territories contain old-growth rainforests and watersheds that are critical to preserving biodiversity and play an important role in the fight against the climate crisis.
We are urging you to commit to providing the necessary resources for First Nations who wish to create a conservation economy that protects these critical ecosystems. This funding should include short-term bridge funding to compensate Nations for lost revenue should they request deferrals, funding in the intermediate-term to support Nations in consulting with their members and developing stewardship plans, and long-term funding to help realize the vision that they develop.
While it is good to see your government recognize the importance of Indigenous conservation and protected areas to your commitment to protecting 25% of Canada's land and water by 2025 and 30% by 2030, having targets is not enough. This work must be prioritized, and significant federal investments and partnerships must be in place to achieve these goals. Consultation and cooperation with First Nations is an essential part of the work that must be done. The current budget and priorities of the Canada’s Nature Legacy Fund are not nearly enough to support Indigenous-led initiatives to protect ancient, old-growth stands.
New Democrats recognize the unique knowledge and vital governance role that Indigenous people have, and continue to play, as the original peoples and stewards of their territories. Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the recognition of inherent rights, title and treaty rights must be at the heart of any approach to addressing the biodiversity and climate crises.
Indigenous communities are best placed to protect biodiversity through control over their territory. We trust that you agree and will give support for Indigenous-led forest stewardship the priority it deserves.
Laurel Collins, MP
NDP Critic for Environment and Climate Change
Alistair MacGregor, MP
NDP Critic for Agriculture, Rural Economic Development, B.C. Regional Development Agency