Trudeau announces $800M for Indigenous-led conservation initiatives

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $800 million in funding for large Indigenous-led conservation projects covering almost a million square kilometres of land.

Conservation projects set for Ontario, B.C., NWT and Nunavut

A purple sea star is seen in Meyers Passage near Princess Royal Island, B.C. Friday, Sept, 20, 2013.
A purple sea star in Meyers Passage near Princess Royal Island, B.C. in the Great Bear Sea. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $800 million in funding over seven years for large Indigenous-led conservation projects covering almost a million square kilometres of land.

"Communities have been clear — safeguarding lands and waters will help build a strong future for generations to come," Trudeau said Wednesday. "As a government, our role is to listen and support that vision."

The prime minister made the announcement in Montréal, which is hosting the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, also known as COP15.

The four projects in Ontario, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia that will be funded starting next year are meant to conserve land and protect coastal and inland waterways.

Trudeau said the initiative will help Canada reach its target of conserving 25 per cent of Canada's land and waters by 2025, rising to 30 per cent by 2030. 

The project is being funded with the help of Project Finance for Permanence, PFP, a funding model that channels contributions from Indigenous communities, all levels of government and the philanthropic community to provide long-term protection for land and water.

The federal government has yet to explain how the projects will be funded through the PFP initiative.  

Watch: Feds pledge funding up to $800 million for Indigenous-led conservation projects:

Feds pledge funding up to $800 million for Indigenous-led conservation projects

1 year ago
Duration 1:23
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces funding for four Indigenous-led conservation efforts at COP15 summit in Montreal.

B.C.'s Northern Shelf Bioregion

In the Great Bear Sea on B.C's coast, the initiative will support a group representing 17 First Nations working to protect the Northern Shelf Bioregion, which includes a number of islands, rocky shorelines and deep fjords.

The government says that stretch of ocean, which has been home to Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, helps to cut greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering carbon.

It is also home to migrating humpback whales and is a feeding ground for Bigg's whales and northern resident killer whales. It is also home to a rebounding sea otter population, kelp forests and sensitive reefs.

Caribou just north of the treeline in the Northwest Territories. (Submitted by Adam Hill)

The NWT's tundra and taiga-boreal forest

In the Northwest Territories, funding will be directed to a partnership of 30 Indigenous groups working to protect boreal forests, rivers and other lands.

Aside from its unique flora and fauna, the region is home to tundra and taiga-boreal forest, which the federal government says remains 90 per cent intact.

The funding would help protect species at risk such as the Peary caribou, whooping crane, polar bear and wolverine, along with some 300 species of  birds, most of which are migratory.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and PJ Akeeagok, then president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, walk the shore of Pamiuja island in the Qikiqtani region during Trudeau's visit to Arctic Bay, Nunavut in 2019. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Qikiqtani, Nunavut

The third region being protected is in Qikiqtani, the northernmost region of Nunavut, home to sensitive habitats for marine mammals, birds and fish.

The region is home to ringed seals, beluga whales, walruses, polar bears and migrating birds. In the open ocean, whales use the waters for calving.

Along the coast the sea ice edges contain an abundance of plankton, copepods, Arctic cod and other fish that form an important part of the regional food supply.

Aerial view of landscape typical of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario, Canada. (Kathleen Ruehland/Queen's University)

James Bay, Ontario

In Ontario's far north, the initiative will fund conservation and protection activities in western James Bay, southern Hudson Bay and the Hudson Bay lowlands.

The Omushkego Cree will lead efforts to preserve the world's third largest wetland and the second largest peatland in North America.

The area is home to the southernmost subpopulation of polar bears, boreal caribou, walrus and over 200 bird species including ducks, snow geese, gulls, swans and sandpipers.


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.