Environment: Background Content

Indigenous Leadership Initiative: Guardians

July 1, 2020

Coastal First Nations

For thousands of years, First Nations along the Pacific North Coast, Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii, have worked together to carefully manage an abundance of resources—ancient cedars, herring, salmon, halibut, shellfish and more. Given mounting pressures on coastal territories over the past century, from industrial logging, commercial fishing, tourism and climate change, these Nations agreed to work together to create a sustainable, conservation- based economy for their ancestral territories.

Today, Coastal First Nations (CFN) is governed by the Great Bear Initiative Board of Directors, representing the following entities: Council of the Haida Nation, Gitga’at First Nation, Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Kitasoo Band Council, Metlakatla Governing Council, Nuxalk Nation, Old Massett Village Council, Skidegate Band Council, and the Wuikinuxv Nation.


Each Guardian Watchmen program within CFN member Nations has a mandate and distinct set of goals, objectives and priorities, based on the uniqueness of their Nations’ territories and governance structures. And these programs all share a regional stewardship perspective as well, and a recognition that working together can help build knowledge, capacity and success. This collective focus is a big part of what defines the Coastal Guardian Watchmen, and it’s also why they are recognized across Canada and beyond for their success and effectiveness.
The Coastal First Nations Guardian Program – Strategic Plan, released in July 2020, articulates the shared goals and objectives of the Guardian programs within CFN member Nations, and outlines eight Strategic Priorities for enhancing their work into the future.

February 23, 2022

Indigenous Guardians Network

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative – is promoting a federally funded, Indigenous-led National Indigenous Guardians Network in Canada that supports development and employment of guardians across the country. This network has generated broad support, including from the Assembly of First Nations which passed a resolution in 2015 calling for a national Guardians program.

The movement to create a National Indigenous Guardians Network gained ground when the government of Canada included an initial investment of $25 million over 5 years in the 2017-2018 federal budget. While this investment will not enable new guardian programs to be established immediately, this seed funding will help develop the national network and prepare Indigenous Nations and communities to launch their own Indigenous Guardians programs.

Guardians are employed as the “eyes on the ground” in Indigenous territories. They monitor ecological health, maintain cultural sites and protect sensitive areas and species. They play a vital role in creating land-use and marine-use plans. And they promote intergenerational sharing of Indigenous knowledge—helping train the next generation of educators, ministers and nation builders. The Indigenous Leadership Initiative is proud to have partnered with Dechinta Bush University in developing the Guardians Pilot Program, a training opportunity focused on core skills guardians need to conduct land use planning and other management projects.

January 29, 2020

The Lands Need Guardians

The Land Needs Guardians” is a new campaign designed to celebrate and support Indigenous Guardians programs and Indigenous stewardship. The campaign, launching on Wednesday, is part of a larger movement. Across the country, Indigenous Nations are caring for lands, waters and resources. They are delivering proven benefits for their communities and for all Canadians. And their conservation leadership is gaining momentum.
About 60 Indigenous Guardians programs care for traditional territories across the country.

Guardians are trained experts who restore wildlife, test water quality and monitor development projects. Indigenous Guardians programs also help manage and steward Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), which are making a significant contribution to meeting Canada’s international biodiversity commitments.

Guardians programs also help Indigenous Nations honour the cultural responsibility to the land. The 2019 United Nations assessment of global biodiversity found that lands managed by Indigenous Peoples tend to be healthier than other areas. Guardians ensure traditional territories remain vibrant into the future.

Other Background Content By Theme

Specific Industry Environmental Issues

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Indigenous Circle of Experts

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International Environmental Issues

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Canadian Energy Regulator: Indigenous Advisory Committee

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Indigenous Opposition to Bill C-69

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Indigenous Alliances

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