Revolutionary pairing in environmental management or too good to be true?

by dscepano on October 6, 2017 - 4:19pm

Article summary: Federal government representatives of Canada have signed a deal with the Inuit peoples of Labrador which allows this group to develop a marine management plan, regarding the management of 380,000 km2 of coastal waters near the Northwest Passage using their traditional knowledge. The creation of such a management plan is in reaction to the melting glacial ice in the area. This changing landscape creates questions surrounding the governance of shipping, resource extraction, water quality, species management, conservation of historical sites and other matters important to the Inuit in this region of Canada.


Canadian federal representatives are interested in this marine management plan because “the end result is expected to be the first indigenous protected area in Canada – a region where indigenous people are the recognized custodians of the environment”. This could be a wonderful step towards decreasing tension between the Canadian government and indigenous communities, as well as for better conservation of Canadian landscapes.  

The rewarding title of “the first indigenous protected area in Canada” from this endeavour has two sides, one positive and one negative. The notion of an indigenous protected area in Canada sounds like a step towards the reconciliation which indigenous peoples in Canada have been wanting for decades. The suggestions from the marine management plan created by the Inuit of Labrador has potential to benefit both the marine landscape and the nearby community, since the indigenous community understands the needs and gifts of the land they live on.

Currently, Canadian government representatives have a monopoly – they are the ONLY ones with power – over policy and other governmental processes concerning resource management. With a history of struggling with Canadian policy decisions, numerous indigenous groups feel underrepresented by a colonialist voice that still controls government actions. The government of Canada has had full control over resource management for a long time, isn’t it time for a meaningful change?

Although, there’s not many self-governing indigenous nations in Canada to take on this task. Due to the continued disagreements over land claims and treaty agreements from the past, many indigenous communities have little to no power. Therefore, this amazing partnership in resource management and indigenous politics could not be easily replicated in the near future.

I caution that government representatives are ‘allowing’ other organizations, in this case Inuit peoples of Labrador, to do work for the Canadian government. Through this agreement, indigenous individuals are gathering information to produce a marine management plan for federal representatives, which could be subjected to sneaky changes by Canadian policy makers to match their governmental principles. The motivation for this action would to reduce the heavy backlash from the media concerning a proposed management plan directly from the Canadian government over indigenous traditional land.

One final comment: I don’t understand the reason that these hard-working indigenous peoples would become “the recognized custodians of the environment”? Why can’t we use a different term, some word that does not perpetuate the ‘Indian’ stereotype? Why do indigenous individuals, after working on a marine management plan, are given a fluffy title for their hard work, when it would be just another day at the office for a government employee? The hard work for governmental action plans put forth by indigenous communities and governmental bodies should have the same importance as the work of any civil servant.

We need to normalize the hard work and dedication of indigenous individuals during policy decisions and governmental actions because, right now, the Canadian federal government is not the only actor working hard to conserve the land we live on.

Do you feel the same?