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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

Indigenous Community Implementation

For thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans, indigenous people depended on the land and its natural resources to meet their physical, social, cultural and spiritual needs. Many indigenous communities continue to have an intimate cultural relationship with the land and its resources. Individuals in these communities possess a range of expertise that could significantly contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.

The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the indigenous people of Canada are recognized and affirmed in the Constitution and by decisions of the Supreme Court. Agreements between governments and aboriginal authorities have led to the creation of cooperative management regimes for wildlife. Indigenous people have certain management authorities relating to the use of settlement and reserve lands and management of the resources on those lands. Through negotiated cooperative agreements, indigenous communities are assuming increased responsibility for the management of biological resources.

In 1987, the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development highlighted the importance of preserving the traditional knowledge and experience that exists within indigenous communities. The report stated that the loss of traditional knowledge and skills in sustainably managing complex ecosystems would be a loss to society. The Convention on Biological Diversity reinforces the need to respect, preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities that relate to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Protecting Traditional Practices

Article 10:

Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation and sustainable use requirements.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Indigenous response to the Convention must be community-based and community-paced. This will require formulating local systems for preserving, using and regenerating traditional indigenous knowledge.

Strategic Directions:

  1. Indigenous communities develop an approach to implementing the Convention with a view to reflecting distinct indigenous values, social networks, traditional economies and cultures by:
    1. building on the current networking process of meetings, workshops and other consultation methods that enable indigenous communities to determine how they will contribute to the implementation of the Biodiversity Convention;
    2. demonstrating the role of indigenous knowledge and management in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and establishing opportunities for indigenous communities to share their knowledge of biodiversity and the management of biological resources with non-indigenous communities;
    3. leading the development of community-based regimes designed to preserve traditional indigenous knowledge, innovations and practices and recognizing their potential economic, scientific, social and cultural values;

      The Beverly-Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board

      The Beverly-Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board was set up in the Northwest Territories in 1982 to provide a mechanism to incorporate the knowledge and values held by traditional caribou users into decision-making. The Board consists of representatives from eight user communities and five government jurisdictions. The success of the Board represents a practical example of the capability of co-management structures to integrate specialized knowledge held by traditional resource users with the scientific knowledge of biologists, leading to effective, efficient and fair management of the resource.

    4. establishing linkages with federal, provincial and territorial agencies responsible for implementing the Convention; and
    5. facilitating the maintenance of indigenous social and cultural traditions that support the communication of traditional knowledge and resource use methods among generations and communities.
  2. Encourage the development of an indigenous community analysis of the Convention with reference to "knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities" by taking into account issues of intellectual property rights and the use of genetic resources. This analysis should emphasize ways in which knowledge and practices are applied in biodiversity conservation and examine how innovations can be protected by intellectual property rights.
  3. Examine ways in which indigenous groups can share their knowledge and experience, and develop joint programs with indigenous groups inside and outside Canada.