Six Inuit guardian groups to receive $4.3M in funding from Ottawa

A wild caribou roams the tundra near the Meadowbank Gold Mine in Nunavut. Six Inuit organizations will receive federal funding through the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program, including one that aims to use traditional knowledge to inform caribou conservation policies in the Qikiqtaaluk Region. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Six Inuit organizations will receive $4.3 million in federal funding for a variety of environmental stewardship programs.

The money will be disbursed over three years through the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program, which provides financial support to Indigenous people to monitor their traditional lands, preserve wildlife and maintain their culture.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced the funding on a trip to Inuvik, N.W.T., on June 22.

“The Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program is designed to give these Inuit groups the support they need to be the best possible stewards of their homelands,” McKenna stated in a news release.

“I am excited to see these projects move forward and help us all create a better future for our kids and grandkids.”

Projects from 4 Inuit regions

Three projects in Nunavut and one each in the N.W.T., Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, were selected by a committee made up of leaders from the four Inuit regions along with representatives from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit advocacy organization.

The projects receiving funding are:

  • Munaqsi Community-Based Monitoringwill use local and traditional knowledge to monitor environmental disturbances and safety hazards in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the N.W.T.;
  • Kugluktuk Angoniatit Monitoring and Management of Fish Resources will increase capacity for long-term species monitoring in Kugluktuk, Nunavut;
  • Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board for Community Monitoring of Caribou will train caribou guardians to interview local elders and hunters about their traditional knowledge and use it influence conservation decisions about how to conserve caribou in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut;
  • Ujjiqsuiniq Young Hunters Program will support the development of young hunters and trappers and train them to collect data on the impact of climate change on wildlife in Nunavut;
  • Nunavik Guardians will expand the monitoring and data collection of wildlife in Nunavik Inuit communities in Quebec; and
  • Hebron Ambassador and Nain Conservation Officer will support community and visitor engagement in conservation in Nunatsiavut in Labarador.

Larry Adjun, chair of the Kugluktuk Hunters and Trappers Organization, said his organization will receive approximately $430,000 to monitor the movements of Arctic char, trout, cod and flounder in the Kugluktuk and Coppermine River area. The project will also measure water quality in an area downriver from the Diavik mine.

“It gives an idea of what is in the river, what the water quality is at, and what fish health is at,” said Adjun.

The money will allow the monitoring projects to continue until March 2022.

Kirt Ruben, project manager of the Munaqsi Community-Based Monitoring project, which means “watchmen,” said the funding will allow the project to hire and train six community monitors from each of the communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) — Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok. The monitors will roam the land and collect information about wildlife, biodiversity and cultural sites.

Most important, Ruben said, the funding will allow his community to document the impacts of climate change.

“Each of our Inuvialuit Settlement Region communities are starting to be harshly affected by climate change and we all have to adapt,” said Ruben. “This funding helps each of our ISR communities prepare, train, learn and get as much knowledge as possible to begin this adaptation.”

Second round of funding

The federal government allocated $25 million in the 2017 budget over four years for the Indigenous Guardians program. This is the second round of funding. The first announcement in November 2018 identified 28 projects that would receive $5.7 million in funds.

Canada’s Indigenous Guardians program is similar to an Australian program that employs Indigenous rangers who conduct environmental work.

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative, an advocacy organization that lobbied hard for a national guardians program, originally called for $500 million in funding.

A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada said the government is evaluating additional guardian programs, particularly in First Nations and Métis communities, to receive some of the remaining funds.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s Nunavut territory to get large slice of $40 million federal harvester support program, CBC News

Finland: What a Saami-led project in Arctic Finland can teach us about Indigenous science, Yle News

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Ryan Patrick Jones, CBC News

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