Indigenous experiences and perspectives of climate change are prevalent in Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), launched in November 2022. Recognition of Indigenous rights, governance, and self-determination, as well as Indigenous-led climate change actions, are included in the strategy.

The National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) is intended to build collaborative efforts and shared goals for the “whole of society” to meet, to manage climate threats, and to build resilient communities. The strategy provides foundational information about climate change impacts, to start with, and then offers guiding principles which inform the goals and objectives to prepare for, act upon, across five key systems: disaster resilience; health and wellbeing; nature and biodiversity; infrastructure; and economy and workers. The NAS provides short term and long-term annual targets for monitoring and evaluation of climate change and action plans that reveal the possibilities for implementing the national strategy as a coordinated effort.

Respect for Indigenous jurisdictions and rights is the first guiding principle of the strategy. First Nation, Métis Nation, and Inuit governments are mentioned alongside local, provincial, territorial, and national governments in directing and informing decisions about climate change. The rights of First Nations, Métis Nation, and Inuit are also recognized in relation to the constitutional rights, treaty rights and “inherent rights to own, use, develop, control, conserve and protect the environment of their lands, territories and resources, in accordance with the standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (p.17). This statement provides context for the Indigenous-led climate adaptation solutions included in Annex F of the strategy.

The NAS brings together climate adaptation efforts implemented by various governments across different jurisdictions and highlights risks to address such that “action in one jurisdiction does not become a barrier or compromise solutions for adaptation for others” (p.31). Indigenous self-determination is highlighted, encouraging efforts to support Indigenous peoples to “choose their own actions to build climate change preparedness that align with their values” (p.31). The NAS acknowledges how communities vary in their capacity and that enhancing capacities can close equity gaps; this links to NAS’s second guiding principle: equity and environmental justice.

Ecosystem stewardship initiatives by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments are identified as efforts for reversing and stopping loss of grasslands and forests, as well as freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems. These initiatives are intended to enable nature and biodiversity to respond and recover from climate events.

Annex F: Indigenous Climate Change Strategies and Adaptation Action, lists resources, adaptation strategies, plans, and actions that are led by First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation. Action plans that were launched in 2022, include BC First Nations Climate Strategy and Action Plan and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region Climate Change Strategy. The Indigenous Climate Hub website is listed among the resources.

The National Adaptation Strategy aims to “dramatically scale up” Canada’s climate adaptation solutions and engage all of society. As a living document, the NAS and its adaptation action plans will be updated every five years.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Joris Beugels, Unsplash)

How can climate policy be more inclusive of Indigenous rights and knowledge systems, while working toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? Principles for creating ethical spaces and recognizing the Treaty and constitutionally-protected rights of Indigenous peoples are two ways to elevate Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and approaches to climate mitigation and adaptation policies.

“We Rise Together,” the 2018 report by The Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE), describes ethical space as “a venue for collaboration and advice, sharing and cross-validation (where one side validates the other).” Ethical spaces create environments where Indigenous and non-Indigenous systems of knowledge can interact, through mutual respect, kindness, and generosity, to generate an exchange of values. There is a difference between the idea of the ethical space, and the practice of it: “[w]hile agreeing to formally enter ethical space may be straightforward for most parties, actually being within that space together requires flexibility.”

Historical legacies of colonialism prevent Indigenous-led solutions for climate change from being effectively implemented. Consequently, researchers propose calls to action to facilitate Indigenous-led climate mitigation and adaptation policies in Canada; these actions include how climate policy must:

  • prioritize human relationships with land and rebalance the relationship between people and Mother Earth.
  • prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems and equally consider diverse knowledge systems.
  • be multidimensional in order to also advance decarbonization and decolonization.
  • position Indigenous peoples as leaders from diverse nations, having inherent rights to self-determination.
  • be forward-thinking, and promote the well-being of Indigenous peoples.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Lili Popper, Unsplash)