Anishinabe peoples have lived along the coast of Georgian Bay and have been stewards of the lands and waters for thousands of years. Historically, protected areas in Canada, such as provincial and federal parks, disconnected Indigenous Peoples from their territories. Rights to hunt, gather, and trap, and their ability to be responsible for the care of the land were taken away.
Canada has provided funding for Indigenous Nations to establish Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) across the country, an acknowledgement of the important role of Indigenous Peoples in conservation and in recognition of the critical role of IPCAs in the protection of lands across Canada.
IPCAs are places where Indigenous Peoples lead the protection and care of the lands and waters by using a variety of strategies, including Indigenous laws, experience and knowledge. The ways Indigenous Peoples have learned to steward the lands and waters over thousands of years creates abundance in nature. Studies around the world have found that Indigenous-led management leads to better conservation outcomes when compared with government-managed protected areas.
The establishment of IPCAs is part of a global effort encouraged by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to increase biodiversity worldwide, while also ensuring inclusivity of Indigenous Peoples rights. In 2010, Canada made a commitment to increase biodiversity by signing on to an international Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which included 20 global biodiversity targets called the Aichi Targets. In 2015 Canada adopted national targets using the Aichi Targets as a guide. One of Canada’s 19 targets, Target 1, focuses on conserving terrestrial environments, which can only be achieved through collaboration among governments, communities, and Indigenous Nations.
Through Canada’s Target 1 initiative, Shawanaga First Nation received funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canada Nature Fund to establish an IPCA on Shawanaga Island. Canada is also provided funding to other Indigenous Nations across Canada to establish IPCAs, including three other Nations in Ontario. The other three are led by: Moose Cree First Nation, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, and Grassy Narrows First Nation.
For Shawanaga First Nation, the Shawanaga Island IPCA acknowledges our history and rights and responsibilities as keepers of the land. The Island, itself, is ecologically important. Its forest and wetland habitats are home to culturally important and ecologically rare plants and animals. We want to protect the species that live on the Island in balance with greater use and stewardship of the island by members.