The Species at Risk Act (SARA) emerged as one of Canada’s actions under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Aquatic or terrestrial species that are considered by Canada to be extirpated, endangered or threatened are protected under SARA.
The Species at Risk Act, 2002 supports the appropriate inclusion of Métis Traditional Knowledge in that “the roles of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and of wildlife management boards established under land claims agreements in the conservation of wildlife in this country are essential” (Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2003, 2003, p. 2) and because “the traditional knowledge of the aboriginal peoples of Canada should be considered in the assessment of which species may be at risk and in developing and implementing recovery measures” (Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2003, 2003, p. 2) knowing that “3. For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”(Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2003, 2003, p. 7)
Métis understand a holistic worldview that all things are interconnected. Often, holistic worldview is only associated with Aboriginal Peoples, but in the truest sense of the term, holism includes all peoples’ view of the world. Traditional knowledges and Western sciences all have an important place in species recoveries. However, scholarly researchers and traditional land users recognize that traditional knowledges are often minimized or not seen to have as much value as Western science. These are issues of power relations among those who dictate what knowledge matters. Part of this is a result of our current education system that only teaches Western science. Young people are required by provincial and federal legislation to attend school. While this has many benefits, it also disconnects young people from learning their own cultural heritage in close proximity to the natural world around them. Traditional knowledges can only be perpetuated if they are connected to youth intergenerationally by being on the land. Otherwise, these knowledges begin to exist only as a source of ‘feeder’ information for scientific studies being drawn out of Elders or traditional land users without consideration for what happens when there are no more Indigenous people with land-based cultural knowledge. Part of the Métis National Council work on SARA is to consider the potential limitations or infringements to Aboriginal rights with respect to food sources, social impacts and ceremonial purposes in SARA administrative decisions.
There are a number of opportunities for Métis to be included in SARA processes, including through the provision of input into the SARA Cycle of 1) Assessment; 2) Protection; 3) Recovery Planning; 4) Implementation; and 5) Monitoring and Evaluation. This could happen at the community level, through specialized committees such as the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk or associated subcommittees, through the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) or the COSEWIC Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittee, or through other species-specific committees that may arise as needed. Representation on any of these committees is reliant upon appropriate resources, financial and informational, to ensure adequate inclusion of Métis perspectives. There are also habitat protection project funds available through Environment Canada’s Aboriginal Funds for Species at Risk (AFSAR) program offered in an annual competition among Métis, First Nations and Inuit. The Métis National Council provides policy advice to the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk (NACOSAR) and nominates a Métis representative to serve on NACOSAR for a three-year term.
Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2003. (2003). Species at Risk Act. Canada Gazette Part III , 25 (3), Ch.29.