Have you heard of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas?
by Katie Blake
HAT Executive Director
In Canadian culture, we have largely come to know protected landscapes in the form of parks, ecological reserves, wildlife protected areas, and world heritage sites . Land trust and non-profit owned conservation areas, as well as conservation covenants (better known as easements outside of BC) have been more recent additions to the list of lands that Canadians count as conserved. This collective conservation work has surely prevented the loss of many species and ecosystems that may otherwise have succumbed to resource development, housing, and other land conversion. Protected areas are considered by many as the cornerstones of conservation that will safeguard biodiversity, provide clean air, fresh water, and food, buffer us from floods and droughts, and provide us with outdoor recreational opportunities.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these protected areas were created without the involvement of Indigenous communities. These protected areas often restrict or outright exclude Indigenous communities from traditional use of large portions of their territories. We are now living in an age in which improving relationships between Canadian society and Indigenous communities has been embraced as a collective priority, and Indigenous rights and sovereignty are increasingly understood. How can the practice of land conservation be reconciled with supporting Indigenous communities and their long-standing relationship with the land?
These questions and more were considered in 2017 by the Indigenous Circle of Experts, which was convened to provide guidance on new types of protected areas that are Indigenous-led: collectively called “Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas” or IPCAs. Reflecting the diversity of the lands, laws, and communities across Canada, there is no one-size-fits-all type of IPCA. Rather, IPCAs can take many forms, but they have several aspects in common; they are Indigenous-led, they represent a long-term commitment to conservation, they connect the land to Indigenous Peoples offering healing to both, they acknowledge International law such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and they offer unique opportunities for reconciliation. Surely by adding to the toolbox for land protection, while also advancing equity among people, IPCAs are something to pay attention to. IPCAs are already in the news. Keep your eyes peeled – you will see and hear more about them in the future. Please read much more about IPCAs in “We Rise Together”, the report and recommendations generated in 2018 by the Indigenous Circle of Experts.
Western Regional Gathering of the Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) about the Pathway to Target 1.