Indigenous guardians pilot program first of its kind in B.C.

June 1, 2022 at 4:01 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The Kitasoo Xai’xais and Nuxalk First Nations, along with BC Parks, have signed an agreement that could lead to shared compliance and enforcement responsibilities within provincial protected areas in both Nations’ territories.

Once established, the Guardian Shared Compliance and Enforcement Pilot Project will designate select Indigenous guardians with the same legal authorities as BC Parks rangers, making it the first project of its kind in B.C.

“Our Nation has stewarded our traditional territory for millennia. Our traditional laws, knowledge systems and practices, combined with the legal authorities envisioned under this pilot project, create a unique opportunity to ensure the land and all of its natural and cultural values are protected for the long term,” said Chief Doug Neasloss of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation. “The central coast region of the Great Bear Rainforest is world-renowned for its beauty and rich ecological and cultural values. We all have a responsibility to ensure our actions keep it that way and this agreement is a positive step toward that goal and reconciliation.”

The Nuxalk and Kitasoo Xai’xais Nations have collaborated with BC Parks on initiatives within protected areas through long-standing Indigenous Guardian Watchmen Programs that include monitoring for compliance. The new memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishes a collaborative framework to develop a shared compliance and enforcement program, building on the recognition for long-term, sustainable, collaborative arrangements. 

“The Nuxalk Nation and BC Parks have built a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and the Province’s recognition of Nuxalk’s rightful stewardship role within our territory,” said Chief Samuel Schooner of the Nuxalk Nation. “We are confident that this shared approach to compliance and enforcement will continue to strengthen this relationship and lead to further opportunities for our community.”

The MOU recognizes the importance of Indigenous guardians for parks, conservancies and protected areas within the Nations’ territories to further protect ecosystems in support of sustainable economies, increasingly recognizing the role nature plays in responding to climate change.

“Building a strong, secure future requires shared approaches to caring for the land, waters and all the life that depends on healthy ecosystems,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “We continue to learn from each other as we take steps on our reconciliation journey. This MOU is another important opportunity to improve the health of our environment and recognizes its critical role in safeguarding our future.”

The Nations and BC Parks collaboratively manage all provincial parks and protected areas within each Nations’ ancestral territories. This includes more than 40 protected areas, such as Tweedsmuir Park, the Fiordland Conservancy, Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy and Kimsquit Estuary Conservancy.

“The Nuxalk and Kitasoo Xai’xais have been guardians of these territories since time immemorial,” said Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast. “This collaborative approach recognizes the local expertise in protecting central coast lands and waters. This approach will improve stewardship and build a more sustainable path forward for everyone.”

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