Indigenous guardians play a vital role in creating and implementing land-use and marine-use plans, says the Government of Canada. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Williams Lake First Nation to launch Indigenous guardian pilot program

Project chosen out of more than 100 proposals across Canada

They will be the eyes and ears on the ground.

Indigenous guardians will be coming to a First Nations community near Williams Lake.

Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) is one of 10 communities across the country this summer to receive $60,000 in funding from the Government of Canada under the First Nations tier one stream of the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program.

“We’re really just in the preliminary stages but we did receive a funding envelope, and we’re super excited to get started planning on what that is all going to look like,” said Whitney Spearing, WLFN manager of title and rights.

Read More: Tahltan Nation stands behind road access closures to keep hunters, non-locals out

Spearing will be overseeing the project that ‘intends to ensure community protocols are respected to provide environmental protection of fish and wildlife use, traditional use studies and knowledge transfer to monitor fire activity and build relationships with nearby First Nations.’

She hopes it will be launched by this fall.

Already part of the Indigenous Guardians Pilot Program after having received funding in previous years are the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance which consists of four nation members —Nazko, Lhtako Dene, Lhoosk’uz Dene and Ulkatcho.

Julia Flinton, also with WLFN’s title and rights department, is working with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development in regards to archaeological impacts resulting from range activities.

Spearing said she would like to have a full staff of 10 people and see the program become self-sustaining.

“I think that we can operate within the existing compliance and enforcement paradigm,” she said, noting she is anticipating guardians to be able to discuss any conflicts with the appropriate staff of the B.C. government.

“We want to have a presence but we don’t want that presence to be a negative presence.”

Read More: First Nation community signs enforcement agreement with Conservation Officer Service

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