By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Indigenous leaders from around the world came together last week in New York City for the 22nd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
The conference was part of an ongoing international dialogue on Indigenous rights and Indigenous Peoples’ contributions addressing pressing global issues, including climate change.
The aim of the conference was to amplify the voices of Indigenous youth and climate leaders while spotlighting climate action rooted in Indigenous knowledge, rights, customs, and legal traditions, a delegation member said.
“Attending the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) makes clear the plight of Indigenous people across the globe, and that we are all unified in the goal of bringing to reality an equitable and just world,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami National Inuit Youth Council president Brian Pottle. “While my focus is primarily climate change during my time at the UNPFII, the overarching themes at the conference reverberate with many of my personal priorities, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate.”
At the conference itself, Canada’s Northern Affairs minister Daniel Vandal and the Canadian delegation hosted a side event with young Indigenous climate leaders from British Colombia, Yukon and Nunavut, where they shared the important work taking place in their communities, such as the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship’s Reconnection Vision and Action Plan and the work of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s National Inuit Youth Council.
“Indigenous Peoples are already leading our collective response to climate change, in Canada and across the globe. Throughout my travels across the North and Arctic, I have seen firsthand the innovative, community-led energy projects being developed and implemented by Indigenous Peoples, especially by the younger generation, who have much at stake in our response to climate change,” Vandal said. “As an Indigenous member of the federal cabinet, it was a pleasure and honour to lead Canada’s delegation at this year’s session, where we have the honour to learn from Indigenous youth who are leading the response to the climate crisis in their communities. By working together in partnership with Indigenous people, we are taking necessary action to fight climate change, create economic prosperity, and build a strong, healthy, sustainable future for all.”
Canada’s Northern and Arctic regions are warming at approximately three times the global average, and Indigenous and northern communities are on the front lines of climate change due to their geographic location and relationship to the land, waters, and ice.
In a statement, the government said it would continue to lean on Indigenous traditions in the battle against climate change.
`Indigenous Peoples have always been strong, responsible stewards of the land, air and water and are uniquely positioned to lead the way using Indigenous knowledge systems and science,” the government said. “They are already leading the way toward a more climate-resilient future through climate monitoring, adaptation solutions, and the transition to clean energy. Canada recognizes that Indigenous climate leadership must be the cornerstone of our domestic response to climate change, and that more must be done to support Indigenous Peoples who continue to play this role.’
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is a high-level advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The forum was established in 2000, with the mandate to support Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. LJI is a federally funded program.