Indigenous environmental leadership, funding, and initiatives

Environmental conservation funding for Indigenous Peoples

Find federal programs that help fund environmental initiatives with Indigenous leadership.

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Indigenous environmental leadership

Indigenous peoples have been stewards and care takers of the lands, waters and ice and leaders in ecosystem conservation in what is now known as Canada, since time immemorial. First Nations, Inuit and Métis are key partners in conserving and protecting nature and monitoring climate change. They have unique perspectives, knowledge, rights and responsibilities to teach, inspire and help improve natural balance

The leadership and guidance of Indigenous peoples are critical to achieve Canada’s domestic and international biodiversity goals, conserving a quarter of Canada’s lands and a quarter of its oceans by 2025, and working toward conserving 30% by 2030, and creating healthier habitats for species at risk. In the spirit of reconciliation, the Government of Canada partners with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to plan and establish several protected areas with Indigenous leadership and to help support employment positions through initiatives like Indigenous Guardians.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are also at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. Changing climate exacerbates existing challenges and health stressors for Indigenous peoples in Canada such as wildfires, permafrost thaw, changing wildlife patterns, diminishing access to traditional food sources and flooding. The Arctic and Northern regions are amongst the most impacted by the effects of climate change. As the impacts of climate change continue to threaten communities, it is increasingly essential to work with and support First Nations, Inuit, and Métis organizations to help monitor, mitigate and adapt to climate change and build resilience in the North.

Together, we are braiding Indigenous knowledge systems with Western science for on-the-ground conservation, research and monitoring of biodiversity and climate change in Canada.

Video series

Indigenous voices - Link to see full video series on YouTube Video


Indigenous Guardians

Indigenous Guardians supports Indigenous peoples in exercising their responsibilities to the lands, waters and ice within their traditional territories through on-the-ground stewardship initiatives. It is implemented in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, using an individual approach that respects and recognizes their unique perspectives, rights, responsibilities and needs. Learn more at: Indigenous Guardians.

Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation

Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation (ILABC) provides funding to Indigenous Peoples to lead or co-lead the establishment and recognition of protected areas or other effective area-based conservation mechanisms (OECMs) across Canada. This program acknowledges the importance of culture, language, socio-economic factors, and traditional land use as part of conservation efforts. Learn more at: Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation.

Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions

The Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions stream supports Indigenous Nations, communities and organizations using a distinctions-based approach with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to deliver projects that build capacity and advance Indigenous-led efforts on natural climate solutions. These projects focus on improved management, conservation, and restoration of wetlands, grasslands, and forests that result in reduced and captured GHG emissions. Learn more at: Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions.

Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring

The program provides funding to support Indigenous peoples in the design, implementation or expansion of long-term, community-based, climate-monitoring projects. Specifically, it supports community-led projects to monitor climate and the environmental effects of climate change on communities and traditional territories. This program also facilitates access to tools and best practices, enhances collaboration and coordination among initiatives, and supports Indigenous participation in program oversight. Learn more at: Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring.

Indigenous Partnerships for Species at Risk

The program is advancing reconciliation through conservation by building capacity to enable Indigenous leadership for species at risk conservation and to develop Species at Risk Act agreements for co-management or self-administered regimes. Learn more at: Indigenous Partnerships for Species at Risk. Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk The fund was established in 2004 and supports the development of Indigenous capacity to participate actively in the implementation of the Species at Risk Act. This Act recognizes the important role that Indigenous peoples play in wildlife conservation and the need to consider Indigenous knowledge in determining which species may be at risk, and both the development and the implementation of protection and recovery measures. Learn more at: Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk.

Partnerships and advisory bodies

Indigenous Leadership Initiative

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) supports Indigenous Nations in honouring the responsibility to care for lands and waters. The ILI and Environment and Climate Change Canada created the First Nations/Federal Pilot Joint Working Group for Guardians, which establishes funding criteria and provides a new model for Nation-to-Nation partnerships. The ILI is helping launch the First Nations National Guardians Network with federal support. And the ILI advises the government on advancing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Learn more at: Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

Distinctions-based senior bilateral tables on clean growth and climate change

In 2016, the federal government committed to strengthening collaboration with Indigenous peoples as partners in climate action. Following joint commitments made by the Prime Minister and the National Leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council, the federal government established three distinctions-based senior bilateral tables. Based on the recognition of rights, co-operation and partnership, they help foster a collaborative approach to ongoing engagement with Indigenous peoples, and to support Indigenous climate leadership. Learn more at: Distinctions-based senior bilateral tables on clean growth and climate change.

National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk

The National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on implementing the administration of the Species at Risk Act and provides advice to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Learn more at: National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk

Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership

The Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership is a 7-year initiative bringing together over 30 leaders from Indigenous communities, environmental organizations, academia and government, committed to supporting Indigenous-led conservation across the country. Learn more at: Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership.

Indigenous Circle of Experts

Conservation experts from across Canada collaborated and provided recommendations and guidance to federal and provincial/territorial ministers for achieving the goals of the Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous protected and conserved areas in the spirit and practice of reconciliation. We Rise Together.

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