Canada invests $6.4 million to support First Nations leadership in conservation

News release

July 17, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario

Indigenous Peoples have a special relationship with the environment. They have cared for the land, water, ice, plants, and animals for millennia. The federal government is working with First Nations conservation leaders and knowledge keepers to support First Nations as they honour and fulfill their cultural responsibilities to the land. Supporting Indigenous leadership in conservation is an important part of advancing reconciliation, and it helps communities manage their ancestral lands in accordance with their traditional laws and values.

The Government of Canada is investing $6.4 million in 22 First Nations-led projects through the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program. These projects will enable First Nations to take action to protect clean air and clean water, fight climate change, and help protect a healthy environment for all. By working together, we are forming true nation-to-nation partnerships between First Nations and the Government of Canada.

First Nations guardians help monitor the impacts of climate change, protect and restore healthy ecosystems and cultural resources, and contribute to the recovery of species at risk. They also promote stewardship of the land and water, share knowledge between elders and the younger generation, and help to manage new Indigenous protected and conserved areas, including on-the-ground monitoring.

The Government of Canada is proud to be working closely with First Nations to renew our nation-to-nation and government-to-government relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, and cooperation. These investments are an important step forward in the strengthening and development of long-term partnerships to manage the land. When our lands and waters are healthy, we all prosper. The work we do together today can build a healthier and more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.


“The federal government is committed to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. For generation upon generation, First Nations Peoples have long been stewards of the lands and waters across the country we now call Canada, and their wisdom and knowledge are crucial if we are to protect and conserve the plants and animals we love. The First Nations Guardians Pilot Initiative provides support so that together we can fight climate change, protect ecosystems, conserve habitats, and make sure we are passing a healthy environment on to the generations to come.”
– Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“As Indigenous leaders in our communities, my colleagues and I are proud of the contribution we have made as partners with Environment and Climate Change Canada. The initiatives funded today serve as an expression of nationhood, jurisdiction, and cultural responsibility to First Nations lands and waters. This Nation-based model of self-determination and reconciliation is premised on a shared understanding of responsibility, decision-making, connection, and respect for Mother Earth. We look forward to continuing to build this partnership to realize our shared goal in strengthening the national First Nations Guardians Network.”
– Loretta Bayer, Norway House Cree Nation, Co-chair, First Nations-Federal Pilot Joint Working Group on Guardians

Quick facts

  • Budget 2017 committed $25 million for the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program.

  • Almost $5.7 million of that $25 million has been invested in Indigenous guardians initiatives through an early round of funding in 2018–2019.

  • The First Nations Guardians Pilot Initiative is committed to supporting new guardians projects. Remaining funding will become available in the next two fiscal years for new First Nations guardians initiatives.

  • The Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program supports Indigenous rights and responsibilities in protecting and conserving ecosystems, developing and maintaining sustainable economies, and continuing the profound connections between the Canadian landscape and Indigenous cultures.

  • The First Nations-Federal Pilot Joint Working Group on Guardians is comprised of First Nations knowledge keepers and federal representatives. The group identifies priorities and recommends projects for funding.

  • Guardians can also play a critical role in designing and stewarding Indigenous protected and conserved areas, a core element of Canada’s approach to meeting its domestic and international biodiversity goals.

  • Budget 2018 invested a historic $1.35 billion to double the amount of nature protected in Canada’s lands and oceans, including the establishment of new protected and conserved areas as well as new Indigenous protected and conserved areas.

Associated links


Bronwen Jervis
Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Twitter page

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Facebook page

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