Environment: Background Content

Indigenous Circle of Experts

June 22, 2022

New Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) Marine Protected Area

Kitasoo Xai’xais Territory, Klemtu, BC – Coastal First Nations are unified and resolved to move forward together to implement the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network. In the spirit of collaboration we celebrate the announcement of the new Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) Marine Protected Area.

The Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) MPA is a robust science-based management plan for Kitasu Bay. It integrates Kitasoo Xai’xais’ deep ecological and local knowledge, coupled with the best scientific expertise including advice from Canada’s national Science Advisory Council.

We stand with the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation as they work to build a world-leading conservation and management plan that safeguards the long-term health of their community breadbasket, and as they reach out and consult with all users who will benefit from better management of coastal resources.

As Coastal First Nations, we are committed to a collaborative process to establish a globally significant MPA Network in the Northern Shelf Bioregion. We have met recently with our Federal and Provincial Government partners and collectively recommitted to delivering this significant step forward for marine conservation and management on the coast. We will work together to restore abundance, protect biodiversity, create new jobs and sustain economies, and promote healthy and resilient communities. The new Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) MPA is an important step towards realizing these outcomes.

The MPA Network will benefit everyone who calls this coast home, and create a foundation for the health of key species, from salmon and whales, to halibut, herring and eulachon. The MPA Network will be greater than the sum of its parts, strengthening conservation, increasing abundance, and improving management of the coast.

Our Nations have been hard at work for many years on technical and feasibility studies, resource mapping and stakeholder engagement, to develop the local marine spatial plans that inform the MPA Network. We are making progress in this work with our partners, but not quickly enough.

Our communities are growing alarmed as we witness the decline of essential marine resources we depend on for food and for our culture. Against this backdrop, the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation is leading the way towards better conservation and sustainable stewardship of marine resources that all coastal communities depend on.

We believe the new Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) MPA can become a working model for coastal conservation, and we note that many of our Nations are now preparing management and conservation plans in their territories.

In the coming months, we look forward to taking further meaningful steps towards conservation, stewardship, and durable financing, alongside our partners, on the path to full implementation of the Marine Protected Area Network.


Christine Smith-Martin
CEO, Coastal First Nations

Chief Marilyn Slett
President, Coastal First Nations

February 23, 2022

Other Indigenous Protected Areas

Three IPCAs have been established since 2018: Ts’udé Nilįné Tueyata, Edéhzhíe, and Thaidene Nëné in the Northwest Territories. The Indigenous Leadership Initiative served as partners in these projects. We also work with 23 of the 27 Nations whose proposals received support from the federal Nature Fund, a $175 million investment in creating new protected areas.

July 10, 2005

The Edéhzhíe Protected Area

Funding for the establishment and management of the Indigenous protected area over the first few years will be provided by the Canada Nature Fund. Budget 2018 set aside a $500 million investment to create a $1 billion nature fund in partnership with corporate, not-for-profit, provincial, territorial, and other partners.

The Edéhzhíe Protected Area is the first Indigenous protected area designated in Canada under Budget 2018’s Nature Legacy, and it is an important step toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Support for Indigenous protected areas was a key recommendation of the Indigenous Circle of Experts’ report (PDF) released in March 2018 and a commitment made in Budget 2018. Protection of this area was achieved through a collaborative process between the Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada.

This new protection will ensure that the relationships between the Dehcho Dene peoples and the lands of Edéhzhíe are maintained for present and future generations. The Indigenous protected area will encourage Dehcho Dene presence on the land and continuance of language, harvesting, and other aspects of Dehcho Dene culture. Furthermore, the lands that make up the Edéhzhíe Protected Area will make a significant contribution to Canada’s international commitment to protecting 17 per cent of land and fresh water by 2020. The Edéhzhíe Protected Area is 14,218 square kilometres, covering an area more than twice the size of Banff National Park.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is also working in collaboration with the Dehcho First Nations to formally designate the area as a national wildlife area by 2020. Establishing Edéhzhíe as a national wildlife area will complement the objectives of the Indigenous protected area by providing additional protection and stewardship measures. By joining the national network of national wildlife areas, Edéhzhíe will have even greater support to achieve results for the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

A key part of the establishment of Edéhzhíe is the expansion of Dehcho K’éhodi. The Dehcho K’éhodi Stewardship Program is a regional on-the-land program for stewardship activities. Dehcho K’éhodi means “taking care of the Dehcho” in the language of the Dehcho Dene. Resourcing this program to operate in the protected area is a core element of the Edéhzhíe establishment agreement and an essential part of the Indigenous protected area management. The guardians will be responsible for much of the monitoring and management of Edéhzhíe.

The Dehcho K’éhodi will undertake on-the-land stewardship activities including patrols, research projects, and youth mentoring in the Indigenous protected area. Local Dene guardians will be the eyes and ears of Edéhzhíe. Along with Dene laws and values, their work will be guided by a management plan developed by the Edéhzhíe management board. The board will be made up of representatives from the Dehcho First Nations and Environment and Climate Change Canada, and it will make its decisions by consensus.

March 28, 2018

We Rise Together – Achieving Pathway to Canada Target 1

The Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) – was created as part of the Pathway to Canada Target 1 to develop a report providing advice to federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments on how to achieve Canada Target 1 through the appropriate recognition of Indigenous leadership and knowledge systems in the conservation of the land and water. The release of the ICE Report is a watershed moment in both the history of conservation in Canada and the vital need for reconciliation between the conservation community and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

The report recommends the development of Indigenous-led protected areas and advises governments on how they can meet commitments on global biodiversity targets. The report emphasizes the need for a paradigm shift in land use and conservation in Canada through changing the way conservation areas are created and managed, fundamentally shifting the principles underlying our conservation system and our place within nature. It goes further in calling for Crown governments to engage in reconciliation to address wrong-doings in the creation of past protected and conserved areas.

“We can help address our international commitments to protect biodiversity and to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) through a new way of thinking about conservation from an Indigenous perspective,” said Marilyn Baptiste, ICE member.

The recommendations include expanded and shared responsibilities between Indigenous and Crown governments for protected areas through recognition and support for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). IPCAs are the lands and waters where Indigenous governments have the primary role in conserving ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems.

ICE also outlines how governments can meet their global biodiversity targets subject to existing Treaties, Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and other important agreements. These principles are part of the report’s ethical space which created a place for Indigenous and western knowledge systems to interact with mutual respect, kindness, generosity and other basic values.

Etuaptmumk: Two-eyed seeing refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of western knowledges and ways of knowing—and learning to use both of these eyes together for the benefit of all.” Elder Albert Marshall of the Mi’kmaw Nation, Central Regional Gathering, June 2017

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