Marine protected areas a goal of the federal government

The manager who works on the James Bay site says Trudeau’s latest mandate letter “definitely helps”

Mentioning the Mushkegowuk Council’s projects and initiatives in the prime minister’s letters “definitely helps,” said Lawrence Martin, Mushkegowuk Council marine conservation manager.

On December 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published mandate letters outlining the main goals and challenges for 38 ministers in the federal cabinet.

The letter to the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, mentions a few points related to the activities in James Bay and Hudson Bay, Martin said.

The letter mentions the establishment of 10 National Marine Protected Areas (NMCA) within the next five years and support for existing and new indigenous guardian programs.

Mushkegowuk is also working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to expand emergency services to the James Bay area.

“All discussions are going well and we expect successful results in all discussions,” said Martin.

In August, Parks Canada and the Mushkegowuk Council signed a letter of intent regarding a proposed NMCA in the western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay regions.

They are now working on finalizing the contribution agreement so that the three-year feasibility studies can begin next year, Martin said.

Upon completion of the studies, Mushkegowuk will start negotiations to establish the NMCA.

“I think our project will meet the deadlines they gave the Minister to set up 10 NMCAs in Canada in a given timeframe,” said Martin. “We’ll be among the most successful in terms of looks, timing and the work we’ve done.”

Mushkegowuk has also started working with Parks Canada to set up a pilot indigenous guardian program and create jobs for each of Mushkegowuk’s communities. In the 2021 budget, the federal government has allocated up to US $ 100 million over a period of five years to support new and existing initiatives by the indigenous guardians.

They have a meeting scheduled for the first week of January to plan what the initiative will look like, Martin said.

“To see what these guardians could do to promote conservation, and maybe help work with Canadian rangers in the communities, or however whatever the communities would like that precision to serve the community itself,” he said.

With no coast guard in the James Bay area in an emergency, Martin said they were also funded to hold consultations with communities to determine what kind of services they want from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“You have a coast guard in Churchill, Manitoba. If there’s an emergency in the waters of James Bay, the Coast Guard won’t come because it’s too far, ”Martin said. “We meet with them and work with different departments to find the right training for the people and the right boats that require any kind of emergency work when people have problems in the water.”


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