Montreal, Canada- Today thousands of Indigenous Peoples, nature protectors, and biodiversity activists braved the cold together to march through Montreal and arrive at the site of COP15, where UN biodiversity talks are underway. Negotiations there will directly impact Indigenous Peoples globally but have so far lacked urgency and are moving too slow with only one week left.

The march was organized by Colectifs COP15 and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.

Ronald Brazeau, Interim Director of Natural Resources Department of Lac Simon First Nation, who attended the march, said: 

“In Canada, habitat loss has pushed many species to the brink of extinction. The caribou, an essential species in Indigenous cultures and traditions, is an iconic example. But it is not just the caribou that is threatened, it is all life that depends on it. Indigenous Peoples are being forced to change our ways of life and as a result communities are suffering physically, mentally and spiritually.

“The disregard for Indigenous rights in our lands to protect nature is a form of systemic racism. This must be changed at COP15. It is time for our voices to be heard.”

Orpha Yoshua, an Indigenous Namblong woman from West Papua, who attended the march, said: 

“My message to you is that the forests of the archipelago – Papua, Kalimantan and Sumatra – are crucial for conserving biodiversity and protecting the climate. I would like to invite you all as friends to continue to speak together about the importance of forests for all living things. Because when our forests are damaged, there will be a massive climate crisis, species like the birds of paradise will become extinct, and not just our Namblong Indigenous culture will be destroyed, but that of all peoples everywhere.”

Dinamam Tuxá, Executive Coordinator for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, who attended the march, said: 

“There is no future for climate and biodiversity without Indigenous Peoples!

“This COP15 should take urgent measures to contain the advance in the losses of global biodiversity. However, all new targets being formulated must be based on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. If we are the greatest protectors of biodiversity (about 80% of global biodiversity is in Indigenous territories), why are we not the main actors and not sitting together with decision-makers?”

Valentin Engobo, Lokolama Indigenous community leader, Congo Basin, who supported remotely, said: 

“On behalf of my Indigenous community, we ask that this agreement to be signed here in Montreal ensures full involvement of Indigenous Peoples in all procedures and decisions related to the protection of the forest ecosystem and biodiversity and access to funding for more effective and beneficial protection for all. 

“The only ethical and ecologically sustainable way to protect nature is to recognize the rights of the Indigenous Peoples who live in it and who have used their traditional knowledge to protect it for decades. To be effective, the new global biodiversity framework must guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to play a central role in the management and decision-making of forest areas.”


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Images from COP15 can be found in the Greenpeace Media Library.