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“All Our Relations”: Indigenous Conservation Governance and Reconciliation in Canada

Authors: Justine Townsend*, University of Guelph
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Indigenous-led conservation, conservation governance, decolonial conservation, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, political ecology of conservation, Canada, reconciliation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Canada, as in other settler colonial contexts, conservation practice is evolving to align with international best practices and the recognition of Indigenous and human rights. Despite these advances many practical issues continue to impede Indigenous-led conservation, not least of which is the fact that Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) are not legally recognized and protected by the state. Some Indigenous Nations with declared protected areas are still resorting to blockades and the courts to prevent unwanted industrial development projects. While inherent Indigenous authority and the right to self-governance does not require state recognition, the lack of legal recognition for resurgent models of Indigenous, land-based governance presents a colossal risk to the long-term protection of Indigenous territories. This paper explores how this is playing out in two locations in British Columbia with its unique legal context due to the relative absence of treaties as compared to other Canadian jurisdictions. In Dasiqox Tribal Park the Tsilhqot’in are embroiled in a conflict to prevent mining in a sacred part of their traditional territory, adjacent to an area where the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged Tsilhqot’in title. Meanwhile, on the central coast of BC, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, who has protected over half of its territory, seeks to create additional marine and terrestrial protected areas that are Indigenous-led, and safe from industrial incursion. This paper explores the emergence of Indigenous-led governance models and how these articulate with colonial governance and legal systems, and the discourse and practice of reconciliation.

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