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First Nation to receive funding to help protect Hudson Bay lowlands


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the COP-15 Biodiversity conference Wednesday that Ottawa will be giving $800 million to four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.

One of them is in the Hudson Bay lowlands in the far north part of our region, home to diverse wildlife, billions of migratory birds and an important carbon-capturing area for the planet.

Trudeau’s announcement was an earth-shaking one for the Mushkegowuk council, which has been working to protect the Hudson Bay lowlands from human interference.

It’s one of four Indigenous-led conservation efforts in the country that will get a piece of that $800 million, as well as more than $200 million in philanthropic financing, making it more than $1 billion towards protecting traditional land that’s critical to the world.

Officials said Friday it’s global recognition of how critical the far north is to the health of the planet.

“This is the largest carbon sink in North America, it’s the third largest one in the world,” said Lawrence Martin, of Mushkegowuk Marine Conservation.

“And that carbon is, actually, what the elders called ‘breathing lands.’”

Not only that, Martin said the land and surrounding marine area is home to vast numbers of fish, polar bears, seals, beluga whales and creatures from around the world.

“August and September, you have this huge migration of billions, three to five billion birds,” he said.

Which, Martin said, make Hudson Bay and James Bay part of a global ecosystem -- and a stronghold in tackling climate change.

It’s unclear how much money Mushkegowuk will get to work on protecting the area, but officials said it will help build infrastructure, office space and housing, plus create hundreds of jobs.

The vision is to create an economy in the area based not on extracting resources, but preventing that from ever happening.


“In terms of protecting the region, being stewards, being guardians,” said Vern Cheechoo, of Mushkegowuk council.

“Ensuring that the wetlands are still operating the way they should be.”

“We can’t let out human activities destroy the Earth, destroy all life,” Martin added.

“It’s our responsibility to look after the Earth.”

Cheechoo said having Indigenous communities take the lead on this is a reconciliation effort -- but also a message for everyone.

“We have to reconcile our relationship with Mother Earth,” he said.

“Because Mother Earth is going to take over if we don’t. And we’re not going to stand a chance, if that happens.”

Mushkegowuk officials will meet with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault next week to talk details.

They’re also preparing to speak with world leaders at a climate change conference in February, to talk more about the Hudson Bay lowlands. Top Stories

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