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Coast Funds’ 2022 Annual Report Celebrates First Nations’ Leadership in Building a Conservation Economy

With new opportunities on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for coastal communities.

First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii are declaring new protected areas, scaling up their Guardian programs, investing in sustainable energy infrastructure, and working with partners to secure protections and conservation financing for the Great Bear Sea. Coast Funds is proud to serve First Nations and to partner on projects that achieve their goals for stewardship and economic development.

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First Nations Invest in Communities, Stewardship

To help power the village of Gwa’yas’dums, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation has invested in a solar and battery system that generates power from rooftops and a nearby rock quarry. (Photo: Raine Playfair / Coast Funds)

In our 2022 Annual Report, we’re featuring stories and examples from First Nations that have invested in solar energy and community development, new Guardian programs and stewardship training initiatives, and business incubators to support Indigenous entrepreneurs.

In 2022, Coast Funds delivered $4.5 million for 16 projects, including:

  • $2.5 million for 12 stewardship and conservation projects, and
  • $2.0 million for four economic development initiatives.

Coast Funds also partnered with New Relationship Trust and the Province of British Columbia to launch the Community Energy Diesel Reduction (CEDR) program, which will deliver $29 million for community energy planning, demand side reduction, and renewable energy projects in remote communities. In the first round of funding, CEDR partners approved $7.1 million for 12 projects, including $6.4 million for eight projects led by First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.

These investments contribute to positive outcomes for Indigenous communities. Since 2008, First Nations have:

  • Invested $107.4 million through Coast Funds and attracted an additional $296.8 million in investment from other sources to diversify coastal economies.
  • Launched and expanded 18 Guardian and monitoring programs, which monitor over seven million hectares of territory.
  • Supported 265 people to complete further education at universities and colleges, empowering community members with skills and training to build their careers.
  • Completed 93 projects that help protect cultural assets like clam gardens, burial grounds, culturally-modified trees, and petroglyphs.

A Sea of Opportunity

Group photo of Dallas Smith, PM Justin Trudeau, Christine Smith-Martin, and Merv Child.
From left to right: Dallas Smith – President, Na̲nwak̲olas Council; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Christine Smith-Martin – CEO, Coastal First Nations; Merv Child – Executive Director, Na̲nwak̲olas Council. Photo: Coastal First Nations, Na̲nwak̲olas Council.

On the coast, First Nations’ territories and stewardship responsibilities have always included both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

In modern times, overfishing, increased shipping traffic, and climate change have put more pressure on marine ecosystems. To protect these life-giving ecosystems and ensure that future generations share in their abundance, 15 First Nations have worked with Crown governments and partners to create an action plan for a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, also called the Great Bear Sea.

MPAs are a tool to protect sensitive ecosystems and cultural sites, manage impacts to marine environments, and safeguard habitat for keystone species like salmon, whales, birds, shellfish, and kelp.

In tandem with these protections, Coast Funds is supporting First Nations to establish a new project finance for permanence (PFP) initiative for the Great Bear Sea. Once created, the marine PFP will deliver sustainable, long-term financing to support participating First Nations’ stewardship and economic activities along the coast.

At the Dec. 2022 COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, the Government of Canada committed $800 million for four Indigenous-led PFP initiatives, including the Great Bear Sea PFP.

Transitioning Our Operating Model

In the coming years, Coast Funds will complete our transition to a new operating model that will continue to deliver stewardship and economic financing for First Nations’ priorities.

The original economic fund, managed by the Coast Economic Development Society (one half of Coast Funds) has financed First Nations’ investments in businesses and communities for nearly 15 years. This fund was designed to deliver large, up-front investments and has been spent down over time.

With just 10 per cent of the original capital remaining in the economic fund, Coast Funds has issued a final call to First Nations with economic funds available. As the fund closes, Coast Funds will work with partners to secure new funding for First Nations’ economic, community, and sustainable energy priorities.

Download our 2022 Annual Report to learn more.