By IKANAWTIKET Joshua McNeely
From March 14th to March 18th, 2010, thirty Aboriginal Youth from the Native Council of Nova Scotia, Native Council of Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council came together in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia for Youth ARISES 2010.
Ever since ARISES 2007 was held in Sackville, New Brunswick, several youth expressed an interest to learn more, and prepare themselves to one day be leaders for species at risk. During Youth ARISES 2010, participants learned about the lengthy and complex Species at Risk Act (SARA) process, which the Government of Canada uses to assess, protect, and recover species at risk. This is well beyond textbook learning in the classroom.
Youth from Nova Scotia and PEI gave up over half of their March Break and youth from New Brunswick now have to catch up on school work, as they missed regular school classes, in order to attend Youth ARISES 2010.
Themes that were discussed:
- Introduction to SARA and the SARA process – Why do we have SARA and why we need to be involved in the SARA process. (lead by IKANAWTIKET Regional Facilitator Joshua McNeely)
- COSEWIC Species and Habitat Assessment – The elements of the COSEWIC species assessment and the importance of assessing the habitat. (lead by COSEWIC member Dr. Sherman Boates)
- Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge in the COSEWIC assessment – The limitations of scientific knowledge and how ATK can be used to learn more about a species and its habitat. (lead by COSEWIC ATK Subcommittee member Dr. Donna Hurlburt)
- Consultation with Aboriginal Peoples – The necessity for consultation, what is meaningful consultation, and what happens during consultation. (lead by MAPC Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Roger Hunka)
- Social Economic Impact Statement (SEIS) – The need for a better understanding of social and economic costs and benefits to protecting species and how that can dramatically influence decision-making. (lead by DFO Economic Analyst Robert MacIntosh)
- Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) and Gazetting Decision – How Canadians govern themselves, how Cabinet reaches a SARA decision, and how to find and comment on the RIAS. (lead by MAPC Director Roger Hunka)
- Recovery Strategies – The need to write down and track recovery goals and objectives. (lead by DFO SARA Consultation Coordinator Cathy Merriman)
- Action Plans – The need to organize various people under a species action plan and the importance of maintaining consistent involvement in the implementation of the action plan. (lead by IKANAWTIKET J. McNeely)
- Leave no Footprint – An overview of the recently published SARA book Leave no Footprint (lead by IKANAWTIKET volunteer and artist Anna Nibby-Woods)
The presentations were only a small part of Youth ARISES 2010. We took learning beyond the textbook and applied that knowledge to a real life situation of a potential SARA listing for Cusk, a groundfish commonly caught as by-catch in lobster traps and bottom longline gear in the Atlantic. The SARA Listing of Cusk is a very complex issue. On the one hand, protecting Cusk under SARA could lead to lost revenue for some groundfishers and lobster fishers. On the other hand, many believe that Cusk is greatly threatened by overfishing and will become extinct if we don’t act soon. In addition, we actually know very little about Cusk biology, habitat, threats, and the social and economic costs and benefits of saving this groundfish. This requires us to apply the precautionary approach in making decisions rather then weighing the potential benefits versus the potential costs.
To learn just how hard the SARA process can be, we went through the entire SARA process for Cusk.
- Youth were given the actual COSEWIC Cusk Status Report and they summarized the report, including a drawing of the species and range map, a summary of its biology, habitat, population trends, and threats. The youth then made a COSEWIC assessment decision based on their status report summary.
- Youth then played the character roles of: 1) large commercial fishing entity, 2) Aboriginal communal commercial fishing entity, 3) small scale fishermen, 4) Aboriginal Food, Social, and Ceremonial fishermen, 5) Environmental organization, 6) Oil & Gas, and 7) Widget factory. Youth presented their issues, needs, concerns, and interests related to a potential SARA listing of Cusk during a mock consultation session.
- Based on what was learned during the consultation session, the youth then listed out all the social and economic costs and benefits to listing or not listing the Cusk under SARA. This formed the basis of the Socio-Economic Impact Statement.
- The youth then reviewed the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement for a previous SARA listing and discussed what reasons Cabinet gave for listing or refusing to list a number of species. The Youth then participated in a mock SARA Listing decision, where they succinctly presented their SARA Listing recommendation and reasons to a mock Cabinet and answered questions from the mock Cabinet Ministers of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, Finance, and Industry.
- After receiving a mock SARA Listing decision of Threatened from the Cabinet, the youth then prepared a recovery goal to rebuild Cusk stocks and a series of objectives to meet that recovery goal.
- The youth then discussed who could help to implement their recovery strategy for Cusk, aside from scientists and government officials. The youth discussed how they could become involved in SARA actions themselves.
These six steps: COSEWIC assessment, Consultations, Socio-Economic Impact Statement, Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement and SARA Listing Decision, Recovery Strategy, and Action Plans are the actual steps government goes through. Interestingly, the youth identified many of the same issues and obstacles that others have during the actual SARA process for Cusk, which is happening right now.
In addition to our work to assess, protect, and recover Cusk, we also learned about the surrounding natural environment and local history. Alan Melanson, a local historian and Parks Canada interpreter, gave us a three hour indepth tour of the Fort Anne National Historic Site. Our learning focused on the little told, yet vital, history of the relationships between the Mi’kmaq and the French settlers in the first North American settlement of Port Royal. We also learned about the importance of that relationship for the survival of the Acadians during and after the deportation, and also how the wars between the French and English impacted the new colony and existing Mi’kmaq people. We saw where the Treaty of 1725 was ratified in 1726 by the Mi’kmaq people, as a treaty between the English and “the several Tribes of Eastern Indians”. This is one of the earlier English treaties and in part forms the basis of our relationship with the Crown today.
At Youth ARISES 2010 we also learned about the Bay of Fundy and some of our impacts on the Bay. We watched and discussed the film Where the Bay Becomes the Sea and talked with Fundy Tidal Power Strategic Environmental Assessment Stakeholders Roundtable member and filmmaker Marke Slipp.
Native Council of Nova Scotia Elder Ellen Robinson spoke about the 1936 film Porpoise Oil which featured Ellen and her parents, grandparents and extended family. Dr. Alexander Leighton, a close friend of the family, produced the documentary in 1936, which portrayed an aspect of a trade which the Mi’Kmaq participated in – the rendering of Porpoise for fine machine oil. In those days the Mi’Kmaq family would only harvest one Porpoise a year for this trade purpose.
We also learned about native and non-native species in the Annapolis area. Scientist Andy Sharpe led us on a fieldtrip to a local derelict dam. Even though it is no longer used, and no one wants to take responsibility for it, it is still preventing the passage of Stripped Bass, Atlantic Salmon, and American Eel (all species at risk) into an excellent upstream habitat. We also learned about several local invasive alien species, such as Garlic Mustard, Glossy Buckthorn, Japanese Knotweed, Canada Thistle, Purple Loosestrife, Common Reed, Scotch Broom, and Multiflora Rose. After habitat loss, Invasive Alien Species are the greatest threat to Species at Risk, because they out compete native species for food and space and they alter the habitat.
By the end of the fourth day of Youth ARISES 2010, the participants said “we were tired” and “our heads were crammed full!”
At Youth ARISES 2010, “we all had the freedom to stay up late, or miss breakfast and we also had the responsibility to be mature and take advantage of the opportunity to learn the SARA Process.”
The lessons and information provided at Youth ARISES 2010 will make a difference to future Species at Risk pathmakers – IKANAWTIKET’s.
Each participant was presented with a Youth ARISES 2010 course completion certificate. Congratulations to all our Youth ARISES 2010 participants. You are all on your way to becoming leaders for Species at Risk.
We are proud to call the following IKANAWTIKET (pathfinders).
Melanie Joy Munroe