News (CC BY-NC 2.0)

LETTER: Guardians initiative worth learning about

(Vancouver Sun) Re: ‘Guardians’ need $500 M to watch over traditional aboriginal lands, leaders say, Oct. 4 

Finally, a proposal dealing with Indigenous lands, cultures and opportunities that could help create a new relationship with government and industry and create benefits that all Canadians, including B.C. First Nations, can share. Hopefully, Canadians will take the time to learn about the Indigenous Leadership Initiative’s call for a National Indigenous Guardians Network. It is a well-thought-out initiative that offers a way for Canada to work with our peoples so that we can all put the past behind us.

There are numerous benefits to this proposal, not least of which is giving hope and purpose to Indigenous youth. Guardians programs help young people learn Indigenous knowledge and western sciences, training them to become not just today’s guardians but tomorrow’s leaders, educators, lawyers, and land managers. Their work supports broader goals, such as cleaner water and healthier forests and more vibrant lands — the things that all life depends upon.

We need only look to a similar federal program in Australia — Working in Country — to see that this works. There are now 109 Aboriginal Ranger groups working in a wilderness area covering 1.7 million sq. km, and studies have shown a $3 return in benefits for every $1 spent. Jobs have been created, welfare payments reduced, crime rates lowered, public health improved.

Surely, the time has come for Canada and Indigenous people to work as partners, with mutual respect, to support healthy Indigenous communities.

Frank Brown, Heiltsuk First Nation member