What is the Canada Nature Fund?

The Canada Nature Fund is a Canada-wide funding program. It has dedicated 1.35 billion dollars towards increasing the protection of Canada’s nature and wildlife. The Canada Nature Fund was created to move Canada forward on its biodiversity targets.

The first Canadian target is called “Pathway to Target 1” and it states that Canada will protect 17% of land and 10% of the ocean by 2020. The oceans target has been met, however, the land target will not be met by the end of the year. Canada currently has around 12% of land protected.

The Canada Nature Fund is split into two main categories in which provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples/organizations could apply for funding: the Spaces Stream and the Species Stream. The Spaces Stream funds projects that are helping to increase protected areas. The Species Stream funds projects that are helping to protect species at risk and their habitats.

What does this mean for you?

The Wolastoqey Communities are a part of projects in both the Spaces Stream and Species Stream.

The Spaces Stream

In the fall of last year, the Province of New Brunswick made a commitment to double the amount of protected land and waters. New Brunswick will be going from 4.6% of protected land to 10%. To achieve this goal, the Province of New Brunswick has a project, and the Wolastoqey have a project (as do the Mi’gmaq and Peskotomuhkati).

The province’s project seeks to protect Crown and private land in order to get to 10%. They are using private land trusts to help acquire private land. They already have some areas in mind for Crown land protection but they are also opening up a nomination tool so that anyone in New Brunswick can nominate Crown land for protection. This project could impact the Aboriginal and Treaty rights held by the Wolastoqey. If the province protects lands as Protected Natural Areas, without updating the Protected Natural Areas Act, this will impact rights. Wolastoqey communities are unable to camp, collect medicines, perform ceremonies or build on Protected Natural Areas.

However, the province has a duty to consult with Wolastoqey communities. They will be consulting communities on the nomination and designation of protected areas. This means that they will notify and consult communities on any properties or areas they are considering to protect on Wolastoqey territory. The province has to consult to ensure that protecting these areas will not prevent communities from exercising their rights which include livelihood, access to the lands, culture and ceremony. They will consult communities to see how communities can participate in the management of these areas which will include using Wolastoqey knowledge and values.

The Wolastoqey project is a collaboration between the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick (WNNB) and the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council (MNCC). This project will create Wolastoqey Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Wolastoqey territory.

The Species Stream

This funding stream provides support to projects seeking to protect areas that are unique and rich in wildlife, resources and that have cultural significance. This project is called the Priority Places Initiative. The Wolastoq watershed is 1 of only 11 other areas identified in Canada through this funding. This project has a tri-governance structure, meaning that it is being led by the federal, provincial and indigenous governments. This is the only project like this in Canada.

What are we doing?

We are working with the provincial government on their Pathway project to ensure that they are consulting the Wolastoqey on any lands (private or Crown) that they try to protect as conservation sites. We are working with our neighbour Nations to make sure that the province understands that we did not cede or surrender our lands. We are also working to have the province’s conservation regulatory scheme revised, as many legal protected areas infringe on Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

While we are working with MNCC on the Wolastoqey project, MNCC is taking the lead. We are helping with defining management structure for IPCAs and finding potential areas to protect, which requires research and community engagement. 

For the Priority Places Initiative Wolastoq watershed project, we are working as part of the Governance Team to ensure that Wolastoqey Aboriginal and Treaty Rights are respected.

How can you help?

Throughout all of this work, we are working to ensure that Wolastoqey Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, including title and jurisdiction, are recognized. To make sure we are doing this, we will be doing as much community engagement as possible given the pandemic restrictions. We want to make sure that members are heard when it comes to potentially protecting land and waters.

We will be working with the RDCCs to reach out to community members when we need to engage and we hope that you will participate if you are able.

We will also be circulating surveys and other documents to help communities nominate land for protection.

For more information, please contact Kelsey Wierdsma at kelsey.wierdsma@wolastoqey.ca