A Message from Our President: Marilyn Slett

The year 2020 will forever be remembered for the dramatic impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic. It’s been especially challenging for our communities and their health and emergency response leadership who have responded with speed, creativity and effectiveness to keep our members safe. We’d like to acknowledge how remarkable their achievements have been.

While hopes for an effective vaccine are being realized, it’s not over yet. Coastal First Nations remains committed to supporting member communities as COVID-19 continues to have both short- and long-term impacts on us. Our leaders are proud of how our organization has responded to our communities’ evolving needs during this pandemic.

This year, we also had the opportunity to look back on the past 20 years of our alliance as coastal nations. Our 20th Anniversary provided an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and to refresh our commitment to the CFN Declaration signed so many years ago. Our leaders understand that having a Declaration that simply hangs on an office wall does not define success. We must live it every day. And through a very challenging year we have done this.

In our 2000 Declaration, we set out a roadmap for the future, committing ourselves to:

  • Make decisions that ensure the well-being of our lands and waters.
  • Preserve and renew our territories and cultures through our tradition, knowledge, and authority.
  • Be honest with each other and respectful of all life.

Over the past year, our journey together included signing a “Pathways to Reconciliation MOU” with the Province in July 2020. We have made progress on many elements of the agreement to varying degrees – including forestry, lands and stewardship, climate action, carbon credits, northern aquaculture and connectivity.

Going forward, our alliance will continue work on important marine issues, including Fisheries Reconciliation. This initiative has a 10-year goal of achieving the following for our Nations:

  • significant and growing access to all commercial fisheries in the region;
  • a new First Nation- owned commercial fishing company; and
  • a new fisheries co-governance approach with DFO that includes new funding.

Our model is being watched closely by other First Nations across Canada as new policy changes on preferred means commercial fisheries and co-management of fisheries are expected to set new precedents in Canada.

Throughout the past year, the Coastal Stewardship Network (CSN) has continued to support CFN-GBI communities in strengthening their stewardship capacity and authority. The CSN team focuses on five key areas: networking and collaboration; program development support for the Coastal Guardian Watchmen (and other stewardship initiatives); coordinating data collection for the Regional Monitoring System; facilitating stewardship training initiatives, including the Stewardship Technicians Training Program (STTP); and spreading awareness of coastal First Nations’ stewardship efforts through communications and storytelling. The program continues to be a model for communities across Canada and in other parts of the world.

We are proud of the accomplishments achieved together in the past year. Each success strengthens us to be better positioned to embrace the opportunities of tomorrow.

Our communities continue to inspire us with their resilience, creativity and spirit, and we appreciate the ways they are making Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative stronger. We look forward to a brighter future, where we continue to thrive and be Stronger Together. Thank you for joining us on this exciting journey.

Please follow our progress in our Stories from the Coast newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On behalf of all our staff, board and leadership at CFN-GBI, I wish a happier New Year ahead to all of our communities, their members and loved ones.

Chief Marilyn Slett