Successful Indigenous Guardians initiatives now in over a quarter of First Nations across Canada

News release

September 29, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario

Indigenous Peoples have been stewards of the lands, waters, and ice since time immemorial. Across the country, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis are braiding Indigenous Knowledge with modern science to offer solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss, while safeguarding the natural spaces we all depend on.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced an investment of more than $12.8 million from the Indigenous Guardians fund to support 90 Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.

This investment will support 41 new and 49 existing First Nations Indigenous Guardians initiatives to protect and conserve lands, waters, and culture while providing meaningful employment opportunities. With these new initiatives, over a quarter of all First Nation communities will now have active Guardians programs from coast to coast to coast.

Minister Guilbeault was joined by Douglas Odjick, Council Member for the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, as well as Shaunna Morgan Siegers, Interim Executive Director of the new First Nations National Guardians Network. The event also marked the passing of the torch from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the autonomous Guardians Network, which will oversee funding decisions for future applicants to the program.

Projects such as the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nagadjitòdjig Guardian Initiative are excellent examples of Guardians in action—acting as the “eyes and ears” on the ground by monitoring ecological health, identifying and maintaining culturally significant sites, and working to preserve and pass on traditional knowledge and nature-based learning.

At Kitigan Zibi, this project will support Guardians to be active on the land in the form of environmental and compliance monitoring and surveillance; working to preserve and transmit traditional knowledge gained by Elders and promote/facilitate nature-based learning with youth. Species of interest inventory programs will be created, the current water quality baseline study will be maintained, culturally significant sites will be identified, and educational and engagement opportunities will be facilitated, such as Traditional Knowledge workshops.

Projects like provide significant benefits for Indigenous communities, the natural environment, and species at risk.

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting the leadership of Indigenous Peoples to help conserve ecosystems, protect Indigenous cultures, and develop sustainable economies for future generations.


“Indigenous-led conservation is proven to help lands, waters, and communities thrive, and it is central to Canada’s plan to protect 30 per cent of our lands and waters by 2030. The Indigenous Guardians program is crucial to these efforts, helping to protect ecosystems, species, and cultural heritage, while also having significant climate benefits.”
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“This investment will help ensure our Guardians program continues to provide stewardship and economic development in our community. Every day, Guardians are on the land, monitoring conditions, restoring species at risk, and helping inform decision making for Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg leadership. They help revitalize Indigenous language and ways of knowing, which are the cornerstones of self-determination. Expanding the Guardians model across the country will help build a better, shared future for First Nations and Canada.”
– Chief Dylan Whiteduck of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation

“The First Nations National Guardians Network is proud to partner with Canada on expanding support for First Nations stewardship and decision making on the land. This latest round of funding will ensure more Guardians are on the ground responding to climate change, helping restore animals and plants, and caring for lands and waters that sustain all people."
– Shaunna Morgan Siegers, Interim Executive Director of the First Nations National Guardians Network

“The work being done at Kitigan Zibi is a perfect example of the new partnership between the federal government and Indigenous People through the Guardians project to put traditional conservation practices into the field. Indigenous-led conservation is a key pillar of reconciliation in Canada, and the leadership of Kitigan Zibi deserve to be immensely proud of the work they are doing.”
– Sophie Chatel, Member of Parliament, Pontiac

Quick facts

  • In December 2022, Minister Guilbeault jointly announced the launch of a new First Nations National Guardians Network with Valérie Courtois, the Director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI). This is the final time that ECCC will oversee the decision on First Nations Guardians programs. Future funding decisions will soon move to the First Nations National Guardians Network.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada has invested about $70 million in over 170 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Guardians initiatives since 2018, leading to job creation by Indigenous Peoples, while protecting nature and wildlife.

  • Combined, these investments have helped support the creation of over 700 traditionally and culturally meaningful employment opportunities.

  • The federal government expanded its support for Indigenous Guardians in 2021, committing up to $100 million to support new and existing Indigenous Guardians initiatives.

  • Indigenous Peoples have long taken care of the land we all share. United Nations data suggests Indigenous lands make up only around 20 per cent of the Earth’s territory yet contain as much as 80 per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

  • These types of Indigenous-led conservation initiatives integrate ecosystem health, community well-being, and economic sustainability, creating a more holistic and sustainable approach to conservation.

  • Canada has committed to conserving 25 per cent of its lands and waters by 2025, and 30 per cent of each by 2030.

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Oliver Anderson
Director of Communications
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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