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The Preservation of Indigenous Canadian Land

Writer: Veronica Yung

Editor: Adelyne Koe Graphic Designer: Betty Zeng

Land preservation is important all over the world, but the conservation of indigenous lands is a vital part of it. According to an article by Climate Academy by Grounded, 40% of indigenous territory is protected or ecologically sound, and indigenous people protect 80% of diversity.

This statistics extend to the indigenous people of Canada, where 11.7% of land is protected, as Canada holds 25% of the world’s wetlands, 10% of its forests, and has the longest shoreline. While land conservation prevents the destruction of biodiversity, helping to curb climate change, conserving indigenous lands helps in the process of reconciliation and acknowledges the harm that colonialism has caused to Indigenous lands and its people.

Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister and leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, promised in his 2015 campaign that he would “repeal and reform many pieces of legislation that do not respect the rights of Indigenous people in this country.” In the same interview, the APTN’s virtual town hall series hosted by Cheryl Mckenzie, he was asked whether he would still push forward with the building of the Trans Mountainpipeline over indigenous land if the Indigenous people did not consent to. He responded, “Absolutely” and that “only communities grant permission.”

The problem is, Trudeau did not keep the promise he made. In 2016, Trudeau stated that the First Nations people of Canada ‘don’t have a veto’ over the Trans Mountain expansion, and even nationalised the expansion project in 2019 by spending $4.5 billion buying the pipeline, stating that it was a “strategic interest to Canada'' and that construction will “go ahead.” Romeo Saganash, a Cree MP in the Canadian Parliament, had previously said that the Canadian government have “decided to wilfully violate their constitutional duties'' as Trudeau would not “accommodate all indigenous concerns'', and ended his statement by stating that Trudeau should “just say the truth and tell indigenous people that he does not give a f*ck about their rights.”

The problems regarding Indigenous land conservation and the expansion of the pipelines has persevered. In 2020, the Coldwater Indian Band challenged the adequacy of Indigenous consultation to make sure that the only source of drinking water in their reserve would be protected, especially since diluted bitumen would be moving in the pipeline near their water supply. The Federal court ruled that the Coldwater people were adequately consulted, which prompted an appeal to be made to the Supreme Court. The appeal was made by the Coldwater Indian Band, the Squamish people and the Tsleil-Waututh people (from British Columbia). This appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court.

The expansion project does not only break promises in regards to Indigenous lands, but also to promises regarding climate change, as it is impossible to control climate change by “extracting 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground.”

However, Canada is making steps towards Indigenous-led conservation, especially as Indigenous territories overlap with protected areas in Canada. Many Indigenous people all over the world are in support of Indigenous-led conservation as Indigenous people have knowledge about the land and know how to protect it much better than state-led efforts would. Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the Asia Indigenous people Pact stated that Indigenous people have “sacred relationships with our natural resources, which means we must manage our lands in a sustainable way so we can pass it onto the next generation.”

This move is supported by Trudeau, who says that the government is seeking “local perspectives to build a healthier and more resilient planet.” Frank Brown, a senior leader of the Leadership Initiative has also said that it is “a new model of conservation - one rooted in respect, responsibility and reconciliation.”

There are other positives in Indigenous-led conservation. In the past, the efforts of indigenous people in land conservation have often been ignored. Indigenous-led conservation is not only more effective, but also gives Indigenous people the recognition they deserve.

Land preservation and conservation is extremely important for indigenous people, and Canada’s role in it has been both positive and negative. There were many empty promises made by Trudeau during his first campaign, but the move to Indigenous-led conservation is important and a step in the right direction.




This article is in collaboration between Stick to Change (@stick.tochange) and The Curious Mind (@tcuriousmind)! Our organizations are uniting to celebrate World Indigenous Day on 9th August. We will have a week of collaborative content about the history of the indigenous people, their culture, their communities and show proper and respectful media representation of these people. We will be uploading posts, reels and stories so keep a lookout for them!


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