Having Mushkegowuk Council’s projects and initiatives mentioned in the Prime Minister's mandate letters "definitely helps," says Mushkegowuk Council’s marine conservation manager Lawrence Martin.
On Dec. 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued mandate letters outlining key objectives and challenges to 38 federal cabinet ministers.
The letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault mentions a few items that pertain to the activities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay areas, Martin said.
The letter mentions establishing 10 national marine conservation areas (NMCA) within the next five years and supporting existing and new Indigenous Guardians programs.
Mushkegowuk is also working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to expand emergency services into the James Bay region.
"All discussions are going well and we are expecting successful outcomes in all talks," Martin said.
In August, Parks Canada and Mushkegowuk Council signed a memorandum of understanding regarding a proposed NMCA in the western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay region.
They're now working on finalizing the contribution agreement, so the three-year feasibility studies can start next year, Martin said.
After the studies are complete, Mushkegowuk will start negotiations to establish the NMCA.
“I think our project will meet those deadlines they have given to the minister to establish 10 NMCAs in Canada in a certain timeframe,” Martin said. “We’re going to be one of the successful ones, from the looks of it, timing-wise and the work we’ve set out to do.”
Mushkegowuk has also started working with Parks Canada to establish a pilot Indigenous Guardians program and bring jobs to each of the Mushkegowuk communities. In the 2021 budget, the federal government earmarked up to $100 million over five years to support new and existing Indigenous Guardians initiatives.
They have a meeting scheduled in the first week of January to start mapping out what the initiative will look like, Martin said.
“To see what these guardians could do helping promote conservation and maybe helping work with Canadian Rangers in the communities, or however the communities wish to have these precisions serve the community itself,” he said.
As there are no coast guard services in the James Bay area in case of an emergency, Martin said they also got funded to hold consultation with the communities to determine what kind of services they want from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“They have a coast guard service that’s situated in Churchill, Manitoba. If there’s an emergency in the waters of James Bay, that coast guard service doesn’t come down there because it’s too far,” Martin said.
“We’re meeting with them and working with various departments to establish the right kind of training for people and the right kinds of boats that would require to do any kind of emergency work when people have trouble in the water.”