The project supports greater mutual understanding between Indigenous conservation leaders and ENGOs that work on conservation issues and will develop some of the tools and resources necessary to build capacity in the ENGO sector for Indigenous conservation governance.

It is a partnership between Sustainability Network, Iisaak Olam and University of Guelph and designed to build stronger relationships between Indigenous leaders and the ENGO sector and increase capacity within the ENGO sector to support Indigenous conservation governance. Partners have committed to working together in ethical space.

This is a critical time in Canadian conservation practice. After decades of state-led and expert driven conservation practice, where the establishment of protected areas frequently displaced Indigenous communities from their traditional territories, the Canadian Government publicly announced their commitment to repairing the relationship with Indigenous Peoples affected by past and present conservation policy.

An Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) was assembled and charged with developing recommendations on how Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) can contribute to Canada’s commitment under the UN Convention of Biological Diversity Aichi Targets to expand protected areas coverage to 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of marine areas by 2020, while working toward nation-to-nation reconciliation.

In March of 2018, ICE tabled their report titled ‘We Rise Together’, which contains recommendations for Indigenous, Provincial, Territorial and Federal governments as well as for civil society organizations, on how to support the establishment of IPCAs and Indigenous-led conservation more broadly. At its core, Indigenous-led conservation is advancing Indigenous rights and responsibilities, while integrating both Western and Indigenous knowledge in the development and implementation of conservation initiatives aligned with principles of shared governance, respect and care for the land and waters.

This emerging shift in conservation practice contains within it significant challenges and opportunities for ENGOs who have largely defined and driven the conservation agenda in recent decades. The objective of this work is to mobilize several sectors and launch a dialogue that produces a set of resources that will help build capacity in the ENGO sector for supporting Indigenous-led conservation governance.

This collaboration will generate and disseminate knowledge and tools to the ENGO sector in a number of ways:

-a public event at the Center for Social Innovation in Toronto which will build awareness within the ENGO sector about the ICE recommendations and the challenges and opportunities for ENGOs seeking to better support Indigenous-led conservation. We’ll feature a keynote address by a member of ICE as well as a moderated panel on decolonizing conservation three additional members of ICE, two ENGO leaders, and two scholars. The panel will be recorded and videotaped, and made available on the project website.

– a knowledge mobilization workshop with the project team, members of ICE and key ENGOs to co-create printable publications, videos and best practice guidelines to help educate ENGOs about IPCAs and detail their roles and responsibilities in supporting their establishment. Topics likely to include how to ensure Indigenous Peoples are appropriate recipients of funding and communication planning (e.g. language style guide, how to frame issues appropriately). These new products will be posted along with already existing resources on the history of colonial conservation in Canada, how to build effective partnerships with Indigenous peoples, understanding the dynamics of settler-Indigenous relations as well as ethics protocols and examples of MOUs with Indigenous Nations.

– a professionally facilitated two day long workshop reprising an enormously successful “Indigenizing Canadian Environmental Identities” session we organized in February 2018. With the support of Indigenous knowledge keepers and Elders we’ll explore the issues of positional privilege, power, and ethical partnership with Indigenous peoples. The discussion will be expanded to include exposure to the ICE recommendations and the gathering will also ‘field-test’ newly developed engagement tools.

– a collaboration with the Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) will result in a series of four evening workshops in Toronto on decolonization. We’ll involve Indigenous Elders, academics, and community members and design the curriculum with the aim of training the trainers both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

– finally, we work also work with Dr. Damien Lee of Ryerson University to design and deliver two evening seminars at CSI in Toronto on ENGOs, conservation and decolonization/reconciliation. We will stream these sessions as well.

Together, these activities will help support the transformation of conservation practice in Canada and encourage reconciliation in the conservation sector.

Funding for this work is provided by Lush and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant.