Indigenous conservation can get Canada to climate goals: former MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew to Trudeau

By Luke Ottenhof, National Observer, January 25, 2021

For Ethel Blondin-Andrew, the most important solution to Canada's climate crisis is also dangerously underfunded: Indigenous-led conservation.

“We have the vision, we need the resources,” Blondin-Andrew said in this year's first Conversations event with Canada’s National Observer founder and editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood on Thursday evening. “We have a head start. We have the fundamental traditional knowledge, the relationship.”

Blondin-Andrew was the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Commons and to serve in federal cabinet. She now works with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) to develop Indigenous governance and stewardship of the land via programs that train Guardians and educate youth on land use planning. She explained at the event on Zoom that the initiative builds on traditions that have been around for generations, and which account for significant strides in conservation and climate policy.

Blondin-Andrew noted that 80 per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity exists on Indigenous-managed land, which she said is no accident: Knowledge and stewardship practices passed down for generations have cultivated healthy, sustainable environments while extraction capitalism ravages the rest of the world. But much of this work is done on threadbare budgets, with few institutional resources. With climate change experts estimating we’re on a far-worse track than previously thought, and with one million species on the verge of extinction, successful Indigenous land management isn’t a suggestion. It’s an imperative.

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