CPAWS Yukon’s Commitment to Reconciliation

For many years, CPAWS Yukon has been working hard to act in the spirit of reconciliation. It is work that arguably started when previous staff and leaders at the organization began to meaningfully collaborate with Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Gwich’in Nations of the Northwest Territories, represented by the Gwich’in Tribal Council.

In recent years, working ethically to support First Nations has been something we have continued to focus on. Our team has committed to learning, through taking courses, internal training and conversations and direct teaching by Elders and other First Nations leaders across the Yukon. We are also particularly lucky that Anne Mease, a Selkirk First Nation Citizen with a Masters in Native Studies, works for CPAWS Yukon as our Outreach Coordinator. 

Through all of this, the more we have learned, the more we have come to recognize just how much we still have to do. 

So when, at the beginning of this year, Jared Gonet – a PHD candidate, former President of the Yukon Conservation Society & Taku River Tlingit citizen – approached us about collaborating on a reconciliation document, we were excited to start working on it. 

At the time, we could not have predicted where the document would go, and how much I would learn through drafting it. The more we worked on it, the more important it began to feel. We knew that it was something we had to get right.

What you see here is the result of many, many hours of work. Its authors include Jared Gonet and Caitlynn Beckett (YCS board member), Anne Mease, Joti Overduin and myself. We also had an incredible amount of support and input from the board of CPAWS Yukon, whose input helped make it much, much better.

On May 31st, 2021, our Board of Directors voted to formally adopt this document. In doing so, they have acknowledging the work we have to do and we – as a staff and board – are making a firm commitment to action. Please hold us to it. 

I encourage you to take the time to read this document, and we welcome any organization to adapt or copy it for yourself – though if you do, we ask you not to do it lightly. It can only be meaningful if we, as a sector, follow through on the actions we have committed to. 

With that, I present to you: CPAWS Yukon’s Commitment on Reconciliation. 

Chris Rider
Executive Director

Our Commitment to Reconciliation

Reconciliation is about balance and healing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, including non-profit organizations. We are an environmental organization that is settler-founded and has a staff and board that remains mostly-settler. Our ways of operating have been, and are currently, influenced by the norms and customs that have been forcibly imposed since the European colonisation of Canada. This is important to recognize as it carries specific responsibilities in our path towards Reconciliation. It is our desire and our obligation to reconcile the colonial past with the present and into the future. CPAWS Yukon acknowledges the responsibility to support First Nations and the Inuvialuit to safeguard the land, water and air for future generations. We commit to specific actions to help with our path towards Reconciliation, though we acknowledge that we will not be the ones to determine if they were effective. We recognize that we are in the early stages of an important journey, and for this reason, this is a living document and it will continue to evolve as we learn.

Our Pledge:
  • Follow a path towards Reconciliation.
  • Learn from, and be accountable for any mistakes we make and have made. We will work to reinforce and expand positive efforts and approaches.
  • Listen
  • Be true partners with Yukon First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples as we seek to maintain species and places that shelter and provide for those species
  • Continue to prioritize building and stewarding relationships with First Nations and Inuvialuit communities, citizens and governments. We recognize the responsibilities that come with these relationships and that trust is difficult to earn, but easily broken
  • Recognize the history of colonialism that exists within conservation and environmental management and take action to ensure that it does not continue
  • Create awareness about:
    • The structures that were designed to foster and uphold colonialism, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius. It is helpful that these ideas have been renounced both nationally and internationally, in particular by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and through UNDRIP, though the concepts tied to them are still used today and impede the path to Reconciliation;
    • How the environmental sector can support the abolishment of colonialism.

We are still far from Reconciliation, and acknowledge the fact that it is ultimately not for us to decide what is considered true reconciliation. Understanding the damage done through past and existing colonial institutions and practices, there is still much to learn and much healing to be done. We recognize that this commitment is just a step in our ongoing journey. With this work, we hope we can play a small role towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and we will play this role with humility, respect, and hope for a better tomorrow