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New Indigenous environment advisory panel launched

PHOTO. Supplied: Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild signs the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel mandate with his fellow panel members, Minister Phillips and the Chief Scientist. Government of Alberta.

A new advisory panel in the province will make sure Indigenous voices are heard when it comes to environmental monitoring.

The Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel (IWAP) is the first of it’s kind in Canada, the seven-member panel includes academics, industry experts, Elders and a former Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada commissioner.

The IWAP will meet twice a year with Alberta’s Chief Scientist, on how to incorporate Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge in environmental monitoring.

“First Nations and Metis are vital to Alberta’s resource economy, but have been historically shut out of environmental monitoring decisions. This panel is a step towards a holistic approach to monitoring, built on a commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Shannon Phillips, minister of environment and parks, who was in Fort McMurray on May 31, 2017 to launch the panel. 

The panel’s mandate will include several unique features, like a consensus-based process for giving advice and it will recognize the importance of both oral and written communication. The IWAP will work with the Science Advisory Panel to create long-term environmental monitoring that will reflect both scientific experts and Indigenous communities.

“The government’s creation of this panel of Indigenous wisdom holders and western scientists is an example of the winds of change sweeping across the nation. As we focus on a sustainable environment for the next seven generations of Albertans, it’s an exciting period in history to be a panel committee member,” said Elmer Ghostkeeper, IWAP member. 

Director of Mikisew Cree First Nations, Melody Lepine is part of the panel as industry relations.

The other six members are:

  • Leroy Little Bear – Elder and senior adviser to the president, Aboriginal Initiatives, University of Lethbridge
  • Elmer Ghostkeeper – Elder and council member, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement
  • Henry Lickers – Elder and environmental science officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
  • Harley Bastien – president, Harmony Walkers, Inc.
  • Reg Crowshoe – Piikani First Nation Elder and professor of Indigenous Studies, University of Calgary
  • Wilton Littlechild – Grand Chief of Treaty 6 and lawyer, commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada