Federal government earmarks $1.2 million for Mi’kmaq peoples to restore Atlantic coastal habitats

Bay of Fundy, which lies between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

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HALIFAX The Canadian federal government says their $1.2 million investment to the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq will restore coastal habitats along the eastern coast.

In a Feb. 28 news release, the Government of Canada stated their intention to give $1.2 million over the next four years to the Mi’kmaq peoples in hopes of restoring coastal habitats near the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy. The funds, which fall under Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) Oceans Protection Plan, will lead to direct efforts to restore and protect the eastern coast, the release stated.

“Our government is committed to protecting our coasts,” Member of Parliament (MP) and Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson said. “I am pleased that our collaboration with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq will ensure healthy, thriving coastal habitats in Nova Scotia for future generations.”

“The investment announced today will help to restore or enhance these coastal landscapes and to be able to plan, implement and monitor restoration activities. It will help build capacity within Mi’kmaq communities,” the release stated. The new project could mean up to 13 new jobs for the Indigenous peoples of Atlantic Canada.

Senior Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq Angie Gillis said that the investment will also mean direct involvement of the Mi’kmaq to “restore integral coastal landscapes along the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy watershed. This opportunity would not be possible without the support of DFO and their efforts to understand the importance of incorporating the concepts of ‘Two Eyed Seeing’ and ‘Netukulimk’ into our proposed activities and overarching objectives.”

Netukulimk is a way of managing resources, but integrally includes a spiritual element of tying people, plants, animals and the environment together. Netukulimk means balancing adequate standards of living, including economic well-being with the use of the lands without jeopardizing the environment.

“The main restoration activities will include artificial reef installations in the Northumberland Strait to enhance and/or restore impacted marine and estuarine habitats and tidal barrier restoration planning and work along the Bay of Fundy shoreline to restore salt marshes in the region,” Gillis mentioned. “All of this work will be completed through use of both the traditional lens and the western science lens bringing both knowledge sets into one collaborative effort to restore our lands and resources”.

DFO also noted that the work – installing artificial reefs – will provide shelter and protection to a wide range of fish species, which also includes lobster and crabs. The artificial reefs, DFO noted, could result in considerable growth of seaweeds and other marine plants.

“The Bay of Fundy watershed work will involve tidal barrier assessments and planning activities that will lead to the restoration of natural tidal exchange, fish passage and access to important habitats that support such species as Atlantic salmon and American eel,” DFO continued in the release.

The project will bring in Mi’kmaq project coordinators who will work with a number of communities that are part of the confederacy. These communities will gather ecologically or culturally important information that might relate to the project.

The investment came out of recent decision last year to fund $75 million toward the Coastal Restoration Fund, a section in the Oceans Protection Plan. The significant investment will, hopefully, bring back a balance to a number of Canada’s vulnerable coastlines while also protecting marine life and ecosystems.

MP Bill Casey mentioned that the Canadian government and elected officials “are committed to working with our Indigenous peoples and coastal communities to ensure strong and sustainable fisheries for future generations.”

The investment in the Coastal Restoration Fund will, hopefully, have direct, positive impacts for coastlines along Nova Scotia, MP Casey noted.

“I’m proud to work with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq and my colleague the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson on such a project,” he also noted.

The first year of the project will focus on the planning and information gathering. The second and third year plans to include restoration activities, which could include tidal barrier restoration plans, activities and assessments. The fourth year of the restoration project will involve monitoring, evaluation and review of the program.

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