First Nations members of Coast Funds will now have equal decision-making power to their Crown government counterparts following a structural governance change, the organization announced jointly with Nature United on July 15.
Coast Funds supports sustainable economic developments for First Nations on the Central and North Coasts and on Haida Gwaii. The organization manages and distributes financial assets such as donations, funds, gifts and property.
Three stakeholders, First Nations, private funders and crown governments, created the financial organization in 2007. Each group started with an equal share of the member vote.
“We’re tilting the balance of power away from private funders and towards First Nations that Coast Funds was created to serve,” Eddy Adra, acting chief executive officer of Coast Funds, said.
“This is a small change, but it’s really a significant step forward.”
Members are at the top of the governance model for Coast Funds, with the board of directors reporting to them. This means that they provide oversight for the direction of the organization.
On July 6, private funder members relinquished their voting privileges, leaving the vote split equally between First Nations and the crown government.
Using funding from Coast Funds, First Nations in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest have invested in 434 conservation and sustainable economic development projects.
“These changes are leading the shift to a new standard for conservation that puts First Nations on equal footing with Crown governments,” Dallas Smith, chair of Coast Funds’ board of directors and member of the Tlowitsis Nation, stated. Smith has been involved with the company since its inception.
He’s seen how much change has happened over 15 years. One-thousand one-hundred and ninety-eight permanent jobs and 27 nations are just numbers he said, but he’s seen the transformational change that it’s had.
“First Nations’ leadership on First Nations’ stewardship funding is the way forward, especially now as Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments come together to protect marine ecosystems and address the climate and biodiversity crises.”
Smith explained that First Nations have been leading a lot of the conservation work on the ground, and the private funders saw that and felt confident that the organization was in good hands and they could take a step back.
Adra said he had seen a shift in organizations bringing Indigenous leadership into their overall management and decision-making processes.
“To share power more equitably, philanthropic foundations and other colonial institutions will really need to cede some of their powers to make room for Indigenous peoples to really reassert their decision-making authority,” he said.
“So we’re at quite a different place than I think we were in 2007… but while having said that, there’s still a long way to go, and this is, I think, the right step in this journey,” Adra said.
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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