Chief Melanie Norwegian, Jean Marie First Nation, signs the framework agreement while Dahti Tsetso of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative looks on with Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty, Tłı̨chǫ Government, Chief Kenneth Cayen, West Point First Nation, Soham Srimani, Band Manager for Nahanni Butte Dene Band, and Minister Shane Thompson, Environment and Climate Change, Government of the Northwest Territories. Photo: Jamie Stevenson
Significant Milestone Reached for Indigenous-Led Initiative in the Northwest Territories

Something extraordinary is underway in Canada right now, an undertaking that carries the potential for creating a real shift in several crucial areas for our country: reconciliation, conservation, large scale Indigenous-led stewardship, climate, and economic development. This work, occurring under the name Project Finance for Permanence (PFP), has been flying largely under the radar. The PFP approach brings governments and the philanthropic community together to provide funding for long-term protection and stewardship of lands and waters.

Last December, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $800 million in funding for four Indigenous-led conservation projects that use the PFP approach. Over the past two years, Sandy Houston, Metcalf’s President and CEO, has been advising and supporting the development of a PFP in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Here, the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) is convening more than 20 Indigenous governments, the governments of Canada and the NWT, and other partners to explore and design protected and conserved areas across the territory. The NWT PFP will connect long-term stewardship, the protection of important lands and waters, and Indigenous ways of life with new economic opportunities based on community priorities.

October 13 marked an important milestone for the NWT PFP with the announcement that a framework agreement had been reached between partners, and a signing ceremony in Yellowknife to celebrate the occasion. As noted by ILI, once finalized, the NWT PFP will be one of the largest Indigenous-led land conservation initiatives in the world.

While there has been a high level of interest among global philanthropy in supporting the Canadian PFPs and the potential for large contributions from these sources, Canadian philanthropic support is important. For Metcalf, as a long-standing funder, and one who has increasingly become focussed on supporting Indigenous-led conservation, the potency and scale of what can be achieved through PFPs is compelling.

One of the major strengths and key conditions for success of this work is that it is Indigenous-led. Those leading these efforts have vision, knowledge, experience, and an array of qualities that inspire and ground this work in important ways, and the NWT PFP’s purpose and goals have been shaped by extensive community consultations. A finalized NWT PFP is expected to include a very large globally significant conservation outcome, as well as support for economic development, cultural and community well-being, and increased employment opportunities.