New Poll: Canadians Want More Conservation, Indigenous Stewardship

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Ottawa: April 23, 2019: Canada pledged to nearly double its protected lands by 2020. A new poll shows almost all Canadians want to meet this target. They strongly support Indigenous-led conservation and international cooperation as a way to achieve the goal. And they view conserving more lands as an important tool for tackling climate change.

Conducted by Abacus Data for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), the poll found:

Resounding Support for Meeting Conservation Target: Almost nine out of 10 Canadians either strongly support or support the 2010 commitment to protect at least 17% of lands and freshwaters by 2020.

Strong Support for Federal Investment in Indigenous-led Conservation: Over two-thirds of Canadians support federal investment in Indigenous protected areas and Indigenous Guardians programs to help manage lands.

The Vast Majority Value International Cooperation: 88% said the government should prioritize working with other countries on conservation and the 92% support Canada cooperating with international organizations to conserve natural spaces. 

Most Canadians See Climate Benefits of Conservation Gains: There is near consensus among Canadians that conserving existing forests and wetlands will help combat climate change.

Canada committed to protecting 17% of lands and freshwaters by 2020 as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity—an international effort to stem the tide of animal and plant extinctions. Nearly all Canadians think that since wildlife, forests and waters can transcend borders, international cooperation is a good idea.

“Canadians want to lead on conservation,” said Cathy Wilkinson, senior advisor to the IBCC. “Canada is home to the biggest intact forest left on the planet. We have some of cleanest lakes and rivers. We have huge landscapes that help fight climate change. We still have a chance to protect nature on a grand scale.”

Many Indigenous Nations are working to create new Indigenous Protected Areas across the country. According to the poll, the top reasons Canadians support conservation partnerships between Indigenous Nations and Canada include:

  • A strong return on investment: analysis of two Indigenous Guardians programs shows that every $1 spent delivers $2.50 in social, environmental and economic benefits.

  • Supporting Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship is an effective way for Canada to meet international commitments to protect the diversity of plants and animals.

  • Clear conservation plans will create more certainty for those who want to develop natural resources.

“Indigenous-led conservation is good for the land, good for the people and good for the economy. It’s also the best way for Canada to meet international obligations,” said Valérie Courtois, director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, a partner in the IBCC. “This poll confirms most Canadians want the federal government to invest in Indigenous stewardship.” 

The survey also found that almost all Canadians view land conservation as a way to address climate change. When told that scientists have shown the boreal forest plays a major role in capturing and storing carbon, almost all say it’s a good idea to conserve more of Canada’s boreal region. Canadians also cite the need to sustain clean air and water and ensure lands are protected for future generations as reasons to conserve more lands.

“Conservation unites Canadians,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data. “It’s rare to see this kind of consensus on issues, but people overwhelmingly agree the country should do more to conserve nature. They want leaders to work together here at home and internationally. And they want to empower Indigenous communities to manage the lands they know so well.”

A summary of the survey results is available here.

Media Contact:

Sean Durkan: (613-851-2151)


The International Boreal Conservation Campaign is a collaboration of multiple organizations that has been working for two decades on the shared goal of balancing strict protections and responsible development throughout the Boreal Forest.