Indigenous leadership and initiatives

Indigenous Peoples have been stewards and managers of the land and waters and leaders in ecosystem conservation in Canada since time immemorial. Indigenous Peoples are key partners in conserving and protecting nature, and they have unique perspectives, knowledge, rights, and responsibilities, which can teach, inspire us  and improve conservation results. Environment and Climate Change Canada is currently investing over $100 million in nature conservation projects led by Indigenous communities across Canada.

Canada’s domestic and international biodiversity goals can only continue to be achieved through collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, other levels of governments, and stakeholders. These goals include conserving at least 25 percent of Canada’s lands and oceans—respectively—by the end of 2025, and prioritizing species at risk recovery. The leadership and guidance of Indigenous Peoples are needed to appropriately and meaningfully achieve these goals.

On this page, you will find links to initiatives supporting Indigenous-conservation-partnership opportunities for Indigenous conservation projects, as well as information on collaborative initiatives and stories from Indigenous Peoples who are leaders in conservation and stewardship.

Indigenous Voices – Speaker series

Nature conservation initiatives

Initiatives supporting opportunities for Indigenous conservation projects.

Indigenous protected and conserved areas

Indigenous protected and conserved areas are lands, waters, and ice where Indigenous leadership is a defining attribute in the decisions and actions that protect and conserve an area.

A total of 27 communities are receiving funding to establish Indigenous protected and conserved areas in locations across the country while another 25 are also receiving funding to help undertake early planning and engagement work that could result in additional Indigenous protected and conserved areas.

For example, the Edéhzhíe Protected Area, a co-managed partnership between the Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada, is the first Indigenous protected and conserved area established under Canada’s Nature Legacy.

The working group for Indigenous protected and conserved areas is comprised of representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council as well as federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal representatives. This group is examining the challenges and exploring, enabling, and developing the opportunities and tools for implementing Indigenous protected and conserved areas and for adopting their principles and practices in existing protected and conserved areas in Canada.

In addition, many national protected areas in Canada’s Arctic are co-managed with Inuit in the Nunavut Settlement Area, under the terms of an Inuit impact and benefit agreement.

Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program

Indigenous Peoples have been leaders in environmental stewardship, sustainable development, and the management of natural resources on their lands since time immemorial.

Indigenous guardians are engaged as the “eyes on the ground” in Indigenous territories. They monitor ecological health, maintain cultural sites, and protect sensitive areas and species.

The Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program supports Indigenous Peoples in exercising their responsibilities to the lands, waters, and ice, within their traditional territories, through on-the-ground stewardship initiatives. To date, the Pilot Program has funded over 71 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis guardian initiatives across Canada.

The Pilot Program is being implemented in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, using an individual approach that respects and recognizes their unique perspectives, rights, responsibilities, and needs.

The aim of the Pilot Program is to inform a long-term approach and build the business case for long-term funding to support Indigenous guardians and the potential creation of a national Indigenous guardians network.

More information on the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program

Aboriginal fund for terrestrial and aquatic species at risk

Indigenous traditional knowledge plays a key role in wildlife conservation. The Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk supports Indigenous capacity for species at risk and funds projects that prevent other species from becoming a conservation concern.

Between its inception in 2004 and March 2019, the Fund has supported over 900 projects. Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk funding is matched by recipients.

More information on the Aboriginal fund for species at risk

Partnerships and advisory

Collaborative initiatives in conservation and stewardship.

Indigenous Circle of Experts

Conservation experts from across Canada collaborated, and they provided recommendations and guidance to federal, provincial, and territorial ministers on how to achieve 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. See the report We Rise Together.

More information on the Indigenous Circle of Experts resources

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.

More information on the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk

Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership

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

More information on the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership


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