During his recent trip to New Zealand, Stan Beardy was able to share the Nishnawbe Aski Nation perspective on resources and development.
Beardy, grand chief of NAN, was in New Zealand for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference Jan. 11-15.
The conference was about finding a new vision for conservation and development and to ensure Indigenous people are included in the policy, governance and management of resources.
“I wanted to give the direct input of the Indigenous people (of Ontario),” Beardy said. “I presented our situation (water, health and environmental issues).
“I also spoke about Indigenous practices and the land, the historical perspective of how things were done for centuries.
“We were very lucky the conference was hosted by the Maori, the Indigenous people of New Zealand.
“They treated me with great respect, like a head of state would be afforded.”
Beardy found other delegates were supportive of the idea of Indigenous people being part of the solution because they have some of the answers on making the planet a more sustainable place.
Beardy said there is a need to balance conservation with development.
He sees a great role for First Nations in the conservation of nature because they were the original stewards of the land. But that role must be balanced with meaningful implementation of inherent, Aboriginal and treaty rights.
During the conference, Beardy was able to participate in a panel, which shared NAN’s views on the Boreal Conservation Campaign in Canada and NAN’s experience with conservation groups in the imposition of the Far North Act on the NAN people.
His presentation also spoke about the history of the treaty making process in Canada, including First Nations interpretation of the treaty, First Nation views on customary laws, the responsibility given by the Creator to First Nations, and the need for recognition/implementation of this in lands and resources.
He also made a recommendation to the IUCN to consider developing a monitoring system for conservation organizations to ensure they are not trampling on the human rights of Indigenous peoples.
Going forward, Beardy will address the NAN chiefs at the March assembly to discuss the role of conservation organizations’ work with communities and to determine a future approach.
Beardy was pleased with the contacts he made during the conference, especially those within the IUCN, an organization that brings together governments and conservation groups from all over the world.
Christmas has never been a normal affair for me my entire life. This year it seems that no one will be able to call this a normal Christmas.