What is an

Indigenous Protected Area?

An Indigenous Protected Area conserves ecosystems and biodiversity while supporting sustainable and culturally appropriate human uses. Indigenous governments have the primary decision-making role for managing lands and waters in an Indigenous Protected Area.

The federal government has pledged to support the development of “many” Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas as it strives to help Canada advance reconciliation, fight climate change and meet its commitments to protect 17 percent of our lands and fresh waters by 2020.

Conservation standards, management objectives and governance structures of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) can vary significantly. However, the common goal of conserving ecological and cultural values underlies all Indigenous Protected Areas.

Federal and provincial governments can play supporting roles in managing an IPA, including providing funding and capacity building for Indigenous Guardians.

The Indigenous Circle of Experts states that IPAs represent:

  • a modern application of traditional values, Indigenous laws and Indigenous knowledge systems
  • an exercise in cultural continuity on the land and waters
  • a foundation for local Indigenous economies opportunities to reconnect to the land and heal both the land and Indigenous Peoples
  • an acknowledgement of international law, such as Canada’s Treaties, UNDRIP, CBD and other relevant instruments and commitments
  • an opportunity for true reconciliation to take place between Indigenous and settler societies, and between broader Canadian society and the land and waters, including relationships in pre-existing parks and protected areas
  • an innovative expression of Section 35 (Constitution Act 1982).

The design and management of Indigenous Protected Areas will vary based upon the priorities and objectives of Indigenous governments.

Objectives and Priorities will vary, however

Indigenous Circle of Experts asserts that IPAs should

  • promote respect for Indigenous knowledge systems
  • respect protocols and ceremony
  • support the revitalization of Indigenous languages
  • seed conservation economies
  • conserve cultural keystone species and protect food security
  • adopt integrated, holistic approaches to governance and planning.

Learn more about Indigenous Protected Areas in this report by the David Suzuki Foundation:  Tribal Parks and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.