First Nations and Federal Government Announce Reconciliation Ocean Protection Agreement

Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett of Heiltsuk Nation and President of Coastal First Nations, announces the Agreement in Prince Rupert.

The first ever Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection was announced today by Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation and President of Coastal First Nations, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Fourteen central and northern First Nations are participating in the Agreement and more could join in the future. Photo by Brodie Guy.

The agreement between the Government of Canada and 14 central and north coast First Nations aims to protect the Pacific north coast by supporting collaborative planning, implementation, and integrating existing marine planning initiatives such as the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area Plan.

“It is clear that to be successful oceans management and protection must be Indigenous-led,” said Chief Councillor Slett. “We must support the Nations of the coast and their vision of a marine safety regime that will ensure the protection of our coastal communities—our communities, our economies, and our ecosystems.”

The First Nations and the Government of Canada have agreed to coordinate ongoing efforts in the management and conservation of oceans, including marine spatial planning and developing a network of marine protected areas. They have also reiterated their commitment to work together to improve waterway management, increase emergency preparedness, and boost the response capacity of local First Nations.

It is clear that to be successful oceans management and protection must be Indigenous-led.


“The First Nations of the Pacific north and central coasts have been protecting Canada’s waters for millennia,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Working together, we will protect and preserve the Pacific north coast, and we will advance reconciliation along the way.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing details of the Agreement, June 21, 2018.

The First Nations involved in the Agreement are the Council of the Haida Nation, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxaala, Metlakatla, Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xaixais, K’ómoks, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’naxda’xw Awaetlatla, Wei Wai Kum.

Chief Councillor Slett emphasized the importance creating opportunities for First Nations in the region through the Agreement: “It is now time to pay attention to human well-being: training, jobs and creating space for Indigenous Nations in marine industries. Our Elders tell us that if we take care of the ocean, the ocean will take care of us.”

Canada and First Nations will implement the Agreement guided by the following principles:

  1. Cultural significance and reliance: Acknowledgement of the importance of the past, present, and future cultural significance, spiritual affiliation, and reliance on the marine ecosystems and resources in the Northern Shelf bioregion to the Pacific North Coast Nations.
  2. Solution oriented: Seek solutions which respect the rights, responsibilities, and authorities of each of the parties.
  3. Flexibility: Acknowledge that issues and needs with respect to ocean governance and management vary across local, sub-regional, and regional scales.
  4. Ecosystem approach: Respect conservation and sustainability of marine ecosystems and resources.
  5. Transparency and information sharing: Support an effective, inclusive, transparent, and collaborative process for information sharing and document development, which recognizes that some information must be kept confidential.

More information and a backgrounder can be found here.