The first week of September marks a period of transition and renewal for many, as students and educators alike return to school. This year, I find myself immersed in this seasonal shift from multiple perspectives: as a parent watching his son resume his university education and his kids return to school, as an adjunct professor at the School of Arctic and Subarctic Studies (Labrador Campus of Memorial University), as the husband of a passionate academic leader, and as an instructor of the community-based co-management course at Dalhousie University's Marine Affairs Program. As another academic semester starts to unfold, my enthusiasm for teaching co-management grows because I see it as a shared space to collaborate with graduate students who will occupy key positions in the future or may already be working in the co-management sphere.
Co-management can serve as a vital bridge, fostering collaboration between governments and communities, particularly Indigenous communities. Recognizing and honouring land claim agreements that are in place, or Indigenous rights in situations where a land claim has not been signed, is a critical step in promoting social justice, reconciliation, and ensuring healthy communities in our future. These agreements usually articulate a mutual commitment to steward our renewable resources wisely, integrating traditional or Indigenous knowledge with the western science. By increasing the number of informed dialogues around co-management, I am hoping for a future where community advice can truly influence government policies and foster healthier relationships amongst people who care about our environment.
I've been working in the co-management sector for 14 years now, and I continue to read diverse views about the pros and cons of co-management, and I continue to think about how to advance understandings of co-management for practitioners, policy makers, communities, researchers, and the general public. The co-management sector represents an important opportunity to improve Indigenous inclusivity and collaboration, and to prioritize stewardship and sustainability within an equity and social justice approach. As more individuals become well-versed in co-management approaches, we can anticipate a future where governance is not only inclusive and adaptive but also deeply rooted in the principles of cooperation and mutual respect.
The co-management subject area, positioned at the intersection of conservation, collaboration, and Indigenous self-determination, calls for a wider audience and deeper understanding. I firmly believe that fostering a broader awareness of co-management is not just beneficial but necessary to truly honour the spirit and intent of land claim agreements in Canada, and without that honour, we are not on a path to reconciliation in Canada.