As 2009 draws to an end, it was a fitting time to gather together to celebrate a year of hard work, imaginative approaches, and unique partnerships in working for Canada’s Boreal forest. Last week, members of the Boreal Leadership Council invited people from across Canada and the U.S. to Ottawa for the third annual Boreal Awards. It was a lively and warm evening - watch CBI's Facebook group for more photos!
We gathered at the historic Chateau Laurier, and enjoyed a delicious meal before settling in for the business of the night, the awarding of the 2009 Boreal Awards, celebrating those working to create an ecologically, culturally and economically visionary future for Canada’s Boreal lands and peoples.
Our hosts for the evening were Larry Innes, the Canadian Boreal Initiative’s executive director, and Stephen Kakfwi, the former Premier of the Northwest Territories. With an excited audience looking on, our hosts reminded us of the strong pool of nominees from which the Boreal Awards Committee had to choose; selecting only six winners from this worthy group was no easy task! And the Boreal Award went to:
- The Dehcho First Nation, who achieved their dream to protect almost the entire South Nahanni watershed in their territory. Celebrated around the world, Nahanni National Park Reserve has now been expanded to over six times its former size. They inspire us with their vision for protecting the river that provides their water and nourishes their spirits – and ours. Nahanni National Park Reserve will now protect more than 30,000 square kilometers and be co-managed by the First Nations and Parks Canada. Chief Lloyd Chicot and Herb Norweigan accepted the award.
- The Community of Deline who worked for permanent protection of the Saoyú - Aehdacho Parks Canada National Historic Site. (Due to community meetings, a video was presented in their stead.)
- The Government of Manitoba, for outstanding leadership by partnering with four First Nations to create the proposed Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage Site. Under Gary Doer’s leadership, and now Premier Selinger’s, they announced a $10 million trust fund to support the future World Heritage Site, they’re rerouting a proposed Hydro transmission line, and they put through legislation for First Nations to create land management plans in their traditional territories. The award was received by Deputy Premier Eric Robinson, and was highlighted by a beautiful speeches by Ray Rabliauskas and Eddie Hudson from the Poplar River First Nation. Jack Layton and MP Niki Ashton also took to the mic for some congratulatory words.
- RONA was honoured for their 2008 Forest Products Procurement Policy, a holistic approach to sustainability to include all the environmental impacts of the products they purchase. They give preferential treatment to wood suppliers who are certified sustainable and engage in partnership with First Nations, respecting their rights to their traditional territories. Normand Dumont accepted on behalf of RONA.
- Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow is a luminary in Canada’s scientific community. For almost 25 years, she has worked tirelessly for the cause of Boreal conservation, as an activist, a teacher, and a science research leader – mostly notably the BEACONs project, Environment Canada’s National Boreal Caribou Committee and Ontario’s Far North Science Advisory Panel. Dr. Schmiegelow seemed delighted with her award, and declared herself speechless.
- Our final winner was Brad Stelfox, who dramatically improved our understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of development to boreal wildlife and ecosystems. With his computer modelling tool, ALCES, he has presented his findings to over 400 audiences from cabinet ministers to grassroots community groups. He’s now a trusted advisor to decision makers and has helped move Alberta to endorse regional land use planning.
This year’s winners represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds and objectives. In order to truly work for a sustainable future for Canada’s Boreal forest, we need people and groups like our winners and nominees to continue their excellent work. Along with this year’s winners, we were also delighted to see other nominees in attendance, including Bruce Hyer, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay–Superior North, Kimberly-Clark, Suncor Energy Inc., Serge Ashini Goupil from Aventures Ashini and the friends of Mushuau-nipi, Yves Bergeon, Chair of the Sustainable Forestry Management program at the Université de Québec à Abitibi-Témiscamingue and à Montréal, and Louise Larivière, president of Boreal Communications. We are incredibly proud to be working alongside such a fine group of people.
Special events like this can only happen with the support of sponsors. This year we were grateful for the generous support of Nexen, Al-Pac, Domtar and Suncor. We left at the end of the night, tired but happy, already thinking about the exciting work that we’ll be able to celebrate in 2010.
For more information, please read the press release for this event.
All photos are © Natasha Moine Photography.