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Indigenous Relations

Traditional campfire storytelling, Youth Summit 2016 © Daynan Lepore

Free Prior and Informed Consent

Ontario Nature supports the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples for projects that may affect the lands they own, occupy or otherwise use, as set forth by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

FPIC concerns the right of Indigenous Peoples to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories. Once they have given their consent, they can withdraw it at any stage. Furthermore, FPIC enables them to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated. This is also embedded within the universal right to self-determination (UNDRIP).

Interior © Point Grondine Park

Protected Areas and Consent

Ontario Nature supports the establishment of protected areas in Ontario, including legislated protected and conserved areas, such as national parks, provincial parks, conservation reserves, marine conservation areas and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). IPCAs are lands and waters where Indigenous governments lead the protection and conservation of ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems. Culture and language are at the core of IPCAs.

Some Indigenous nations that have declared IPCAs in their traditional territories include Magisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake), Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake), Shawanaga First Nation, and Moose Cree.

Bridal Veil Falls, Kagawong, Manitoulin Island © Sam Nabi CC BY-SA 2.0

Protected Areas and Consent

Ontario Nature will not endorse the establishment of new, legislated protected areas without the consent of the Indigenous decision-makers on whose traditional territories or homelands the areas are to be established. We do support interim protection measures that prevent ongoing industrial development while consultation is undertaken. Furthermore, it is our position that consultation must occur on a government-to-government basis and, therefore, the duty to consult can be legally satisfied only by the Crown. It follows that consent for any new, legislated protected areas must be given by an Indigenous nation to the Crown.

Establishing a protected area should either be led by the Indigenous nation or – if led by Ontario Nature, the government, or another group – should adhere to the principles of FPIC.

Blazingstar flowers, Potawatomi Prairie, Walpole Island © Aimee Johnson

Uneven Impacts

Ontario Nature recognizes that Indigenous Peoples around the world have often borne the brunt of industrial resource extraction, siting of polluting industries, and other exploitation that has polluted waters and air, destroyed wildlife habitat, and displaced people from their ancestral lands.

As conservationists, we also recognize that many Indigenous communities have also suffered from harmful conservation initiatives. Decisions, in the name of conservation, have also extinguished hereditary rights and perpetuated a system where Indigenous People do not have a say in their own futures.

Wabigoon River/Asubpeeschoseewagong © ShroomAZoom CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reconciliation

Our staff and board of directors recognize the need to conduct our work in a way that advances reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples within our conservation work, and through an ongoing commitment to learning and acting to support reconciliation. We are guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report (2015).

This includes co-hosting cross-cultural gatherings, supporting Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, and respecting Indigenous knowledge systems and Western science by engaging in dialogue through mutual respect, kindness and generosity. We aim to integrate Two-Eyed Seeing, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems have equal space and value, into our work.

Our goal is to support just and ecologically healthy futures where relationships are redefined and Indigenous sovereignty, rights and responsibilities are respected.

Indigenous Perspectives on Protected Areas Gathering, 2017 © Chris Craig

Hunting and Trapping

Ontario Nature believes that hunting and trapping activities in Ontario should be managed sustainably. Mismanagement of hunting and trapping can contribute to the decline of wildlife populations.

Ontario Nature acknowledges that there are Indigenous responsibilities and rights to hunt and trap. The ecological integrity and health of habitats should be assessed through sound science and Traditional Knowledge. Existing Aboriginal and treaty rights are protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. Ontario Nature’s position does not intend to derogate from or undermine those rights.

American beaver © Peter Ferguson

A Way Forward

Ontario Nature will continue to work with Indigenous communities and organizations to foster open dialogue, build cross-cultural understanding, identify unique and shared interests, and establish relationships of respect and trust.

Our intent is to cultivate goodwill and effective partnerships, and we are hopeful about the journey that lies ahead.

Youth Circle for Mother Earth leadership retreat, February 2020 © Christine Ambre

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