Final report: Reserve Lands and Environment Management Program engagement 2017

Find the final summary of what we heard during Finding solutions: Reserve Lands and Environment Management Program engagement 2017.

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Participants

Overall, 330 participants from 224 First Nations attended the engagement sessions in:

It is important to note that this report reflects the views of those participants present at the face-to face meetings or who participated online, and not the views of all First Nations.

The importance of lands management for First Nations

The experience and advice shared during the engagement process illustrated the deep love and respect First Nation lands managers have for their communities and the land. We heard from hundreds of people and gained a better view of the priorities, challenges and aspirations of First Nation participants regarding lands management. A common thread heard from coast to coast is that lands management is about protecting the land for future generations, working towards their own community vision for a healthy and sustainable future, creating economic and social opportunities, and taking significant steps towards self-determination.

Three main themes were discussed at each engagement session, including:

Capacity development and training

In order to fully participate in the Reserve Lands and Environment Management Program (RLEMP), a First Nation needs to have a certified lands manager. This is meant to ensure that the First Nation has the capacity to effectively manage their lands under the Indian Act and to meet departmental standards. The National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association is responsible for the certification of lands managers, and provides training along with the University of Saskatchewan through the Professional Land Management Certification Program (PLMCP). Survey responses collected using individual electronic audience response clickers indicated that approximately 65% of participants who attended the engagement sessions have a lands manager working in their community.

Participants were asked to provide their views on the training to ensure it continues to meet their needs as lands managers and adult learners. Overall, participants felt that the Professional Land Management Certification Program training provided by the University of Saskatchewan and the National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association was extremely useful. They felt that the curriculum could be updated to continue to meet their needs, and that training should be offered closer to their communities. They also felt that more regionally specific training could be developed and delivered more locally.

The following provides a high-level overview of the feedback we received on the changes required and/or the need for a new curriculum as well as suggestions on how the training delivery could be improved. For more specific regional perspectives, consult the regional engagement meeting summaries.

Curriculum

  • each region expressed the need for traditional knowledge to be incorporated in any new training
    • participants expressed that "lands management" is a western concept and that First Nations have a different relationship with the land that needs to be respected and acknowledged
  • participants expressed the need for additional environmental management training, including adapting to climate change and emergency response to natural disasters, as part of any new curriculum development
  • given that many First Nations need to manage large scale projects, such as additions to reserve, cleaning up contaminated sites, or the treaty land entitlement process, participants felt that additional training was required in these areas
  • lands managers are also responsible for community consultations and planning projects, and felt that new training is required to help them meet these obligations
  • participants identified the need for additional training on geographic information systems, Global Positioning System and use of drones
  • participants requested training on dispute resolution and mediation with government departments and third parties (i.e. navigating impact benefit agreements or responding to proposed activities on traditional territories)

Delivery

  • participants mentioned that they want training to be offered in French
  • prior learning assessment and recognition was highlighted as a priority for many participants so that non-certified lands managers with years of experience do not have to take training that covers concepts they already know
  • a combination of both in-person and on-line training with various course options to meet the needs of adult learners who need to balance work, family, and studies was identified
  • more "hands on" training (for example mentorships, internships, or cooperative education) was identified as a priority for participants
  • funding for more than one lands manger per First Nation to ensure that communities can develop a longer-term succession plan

Funding for on-reserve land and environmental management

Participants across the country spoke about the need for more and adequate funding for a lands and environment office for their First Nation. Participants identified specific gaps in the availability of funding for environment activities within the current formula. Overall, most participants wanted to see a new funding formula that recognizes the actual work that a lands office is required to do, moving away from the current transactional, volume-based formula. More specifically, participants spoke to the need for:

Better integration with other programs

Participation in the program was seen as an important step to building capacity and greater autonomy over reserve lands. Many expressed that the program was a good stepping stone to move out of the Indian Act, but felt that more could be done to help that transition for communities who want more autonomy (for example, explore the possibility of First Nations in the Reserve Land and Environment Management Program assuming delegated authority under sections 53 and 60 of the Indian Act).

It was noted that not all First Nations have had the opportunity to benefit from the program under its current funding formula or policy parameters (such as current entry criteria are too narrow, funding for smaller First Nations is not adequate). For these First Nations, consideration should be given to additional pre-readiness supports to facilitate entry into the program.

Participants also spoke of the need for better integration with other programs and initiatives, particularly around land use planning, comprehensive community planning, environmental protection, and economic development.

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