The preservation of the environment, land, and resources has been a central goal of the Indigenous peoples of Canada throughout history. The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER), established in 1994 by a conclave of First Nations leaders representing Indigenous communities across Canada, is a charitable, national non-profit organization that has become a key advocate and partner in developing sustainable solutions which will ensure the safeguarding of the environment, land, and resources belonging to Indigenous Canadians from coast to coast.
With its population of more than 68,000 Indigenous Canadians, the most concentrated number of Indigenous people anywhere in the country, Winnipeg is an ideal home for the CIER. The organization operates with a view to “assist[ing]First Nations with building the capacity to address the environmental issues they face,” and is able to liaise directly with dozens of other Indigenous non-profit groups that are based in the city in order to realize its mission. Since 1994, the CIER has also evolved through relationships that it has built with First Nations communities, the Government of Canada, NGOs, corporations, and academic institutions.
The work of the CIER is divided into five different project streams which include water strategy, food security, youth empowerment, Indigenous knowledge, and the conservation of biodiversity. The CIER has been closely involved in developing and executing numerous initiatives within each area by consulting with and advising key stakeholders. The CIER has also participated in the development of tools that are critical to its work including the Boreal Conservation Framework, Environment Canada’s Guide for Community-based Environmental Planning, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Cumulative Effect’s Practitioner’s Guide, and the Aboriginal Mapping Network.
Below are a few current and past projects that the CIER is or has been involved on within each of its project streams:
- “Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement First Nations Outreach and Indigenous Knowledge Gathering”
- “Poplar River First Nation Food Security Needs Assessment”
- “Indigenous Climate Change Workshop and Network”
- “Planning Sustainable Communities”
In addition to its major project streams, the CIER has spent nearly 20 years developing the concept of a national First Nation Centre of Environmental Excellence. To this end, the CIER applied to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in 2003 for funding to support the creation of the Centre. While Ottawa did not commit to financing the Centre, the CIER continues to provide “policy direction, strategic planning and training for the systematic integration of sustainable development and green procurement into government or private sector operations.” Most recently, the CIER partnered with the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe and the WaterWealth Project to establish an Indigenous-led watershed planning system in Chilliwack, British Columbia.