Incorporation of indigenous approaches to guardianship in Canada

Great Bear Rainforest Conservation Agreement Press Conference in Vancouver. Dallas Smith, President of the Nanwakolas Tribal Council stands at podium. © Greenpeace

We have evaluated how indigenous approaches have been incorporated into Canada’s marine resource management policies.

Project leader: Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development

Duration: April 2016 – September 2016 
Budget: $185,000 
Status: Completed 

We studied two examples of ecosystem-based management (EBM) in Canada: the Marine Plan Partnership for the Pacific North Coast and the Great Bear Initiative. These are two distinct, yet linked, examples of resource management and economic development use EBM in a way that incorporates indigenous perspectives and aspirations. Canada, like New Zealand, has an indigenous population, environmental concerns, and has been actively working in the indigenous knowledge space.  

We reviewed literature on the Canadian case studies and engaged with First Nation peoples. We identified five elements to consider when developing EBM that successfully incorporates indigenous perspectives and aspirations, which could be applied to New Zealand’s marine management: 

  1. Power dynamics – Canada’s ‘enabling’ legal framework supported transformative shifts in policy making, engagement between First Nations and Government, and decision-making. 
  2. Jurisdiction – Any party that has jurisdiction over the location, resource and/or activities should be involved in developing EBM otherwise there is a risk of conflict and ineffective co-governance. 
  3. Adaptive management – ‘Learning by doing’, ie an iterative process that feeds back into future decision-making and adapts to uncertainty and/or changes in the ecosystem. 
  4. Agency – Ensuring indigenous people can participate in decision-making. 
  5. Recognition – Acknowledging indigenous knowledge as legitimate and using it alongside Western science through shared governance and participative bottom-up planning processes and monitoring. 

Journal articles

Research report

In the final report, researchers identified 5 elements to consider for developing EBM that successfully incorporates Māori perspectives and aspirations:

  1. Power dynamics – Canada’s ‘enabling’ legal framework supported transformative shifts in policy making, engagement between First Nations and government, and decision-making.
  2. Jurisdiction – Any party that has jurisdiction over the location, resource and/or activities should be involved in developing EBM otherwise there is a risk of conflict and ineffective co-governance.
  3. Adaptive management – ‘Learning by doing’, ie an iterative process that feeds back into future decision-making and adapts to uncertainty and/or changes in the ecosystem.
  4. Agency – Ensuring indigenous people are able to participate in decision-making.
  5. Recognition of indigenous knowledge – Acknowledging traditional ecological knowledge as a legitimate body of knowledge, and using it alongside Western science through shared governance and participative bottom-up planning processes and monitoring.

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Media statement: Today's marine environment report from MfE and StatsNZ

Julie Hall, Director: "It is deeply concerning that the state of our marine environment has not improved in the last three years. Resilient coasts and oceans are essential to New Zealanders' health and wealth, so urgent action is needed to address the decline. There is a growing need for ecosystem-based management (EBM) to holistically manage risk and sustain Aotearoa's coasts and oceans. This is even more important given the ongoing impacts of climate change."

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