Grassy Narrows; First Nations; Indigenous; rivers; mercury; mercury poisoning; health;

Why so resistant to Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, Ontario?

Reporter Emma McIntosh read three sentences from internal briefing documents and discovered Ontario's pushback on Indigenous-led conservation efforts and land stewardship

The Narwhal's masthead logo
A photo of the lake with a boat on the grassy shores.
It’s no secret that the Ford government has a poor track record when it comes to protecting Ontario’s environment. 

Thankfully, Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh is obsessed with filing access to information requests to find out all the juicy tidbits of what’s going on behind the scenes. 

In combing through the details of a freshly fulfilled request last Friday, she found three sentences that popped out. 

Turns out Greg Rickford, Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs, raised concerns with the federal government around Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) — designated spaces where land and water usage and protection is under Indigenous stewardship.

We don’t know exactly what Rickford’s concerns were or when he voiced them, but last April, Canada’s deputy natural resources minister was briefed on how to address them in a meeting between the two governments. 

“I think there are likely some folks who see a deep irony in the provincial government wanting to be consulted on what First Nations want to do with their homelands. Because many Indigenous communities in Ontario have made it very clear, often through the courts and in media, that they feel Ontario is not properly consulting them,” Emma told me.

What stood out for Emma was more than just the province’s fussing behind closed doors.

“It’s one thing for a government to not support the idea of an IPCA, but it’s another thing to know that they’ve been actively resisting it,” Emma said. 

While the federal government has taken an interest in exploring IPCAs, provinces are sometimes hesitant, leveraging their control over so-called Crown lands, which works against the goal to conserve 30 per cent of the country’s land and water by 2030.

“The provincial government is simultaneously approving mining exploration permits — like in Grassy Narrows [First Nation] where the IPCA declaration was ignored. That kinda defeats the whole purpose,” Emma said.

Earth’s biodiversity is in a sharp decline and, as Emma reports, land managed by Indigenous Peoples contains about 80 per cent of what’s left. Their oversight of intact ecosystems is keeping a whole lot of carbon in the ground, while helping to mitigate floods and other climate disasters. 

Indeed, Indigenous land stewardship has been recognized as one of the most effective responses to climate change by scientists at the United Nations and beyond.

For a look at how Indigenous people care for the natural world, check out Matt Simmons’ feature on Wet’suwet’en celebrations as the salmon return, amidst threats from the Coastal GasLink pipeline and climate change.

Take care and celebrate your salmon,

Karan Saxena
Audience fellow


The Narwhal in print

“I didn’t realize that I would be receiving a physical compilation of articles from 2021, and I love it. It’s been great to have something to hold and read, and also show others to engage them,” said Liz, a new Narwhal!

Thanks for supporting The Narwhal’s independent journalism, Liz! We hope you enjoy your copy of the magazine. :)


This week in The Narwhal

a photo of The Narwhal's print edition
‘That river is full of life’: Wet’suwet’en celebrate return of salmon amidst threats to keystone species
By Matt Simmons
When the salmon return to Wet’suwet’en territory in northwest B.C., the occasion is marked by celebration and ceremony. Protecting the waters and fish they rely on for their survival is a responsibility that goes back thousands of years

Photo of Brantford Transit bus
Ontario’s bus driver shortage leaves Brantford riders with few options
By Edward Djan
Photo of Shxwhá:y Village Long House in Chilliwack, B.C., which was opened to evacuees of the deadly Lytton wildfire in early July 2021.
Got climate change anxiety? You’re not alone
By Kiffer George Card
Photo of militarized police, one officer looking into the camera
Attacks on Canadian media reveal dark red cracks in our democracy
By Sarah El-Shaarawi

What we’re reading

N.L. wildfires could be sign of what climate change has in store for province, climatologist says
Don’t Blame Everything on Climate Change
dog reluctantly sits with glasses on
When you really don’t want to sift through documents for scoops. Don’t worry — our reporters will do the heavy lifting for you and your friends — just tell them to sign up for our newsletter.
The Narwhal's logo
View this e-mail in your browser

Sign up for this newsletter

You are on this list because you signed up to receive The Narwhal’s newsletter.  
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.


Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* The Narwhal, all rights reserved.

‘From mountaintop to seafloor’: First Nation declares new 40,000-hectare protected area on B.C. coast

In a conference room at an oceanfront hotel in Sooke, B.C., surrounded by Hereditary Chiefs wearing regalia of white ermine headdresses, red and black button...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Our members make The Narwhal’s ad-free, independent journalism possible. Will you help us hold the powerful accountable?
Will you help us hold the powerful accountable?
Investigative reporting like The Narwhal’s is blocked on Facebook and Instagram. One way to make sure you still get the facts? Sign up for our free newsletter.
Printed text saying: "Good news is hard to find," with each word disappearing one by one
Investigative reporting like The Narwhal’s is blocked on Facebook and Instagram. One way to make sure you still get the facts? Sign up for our free newsletter.