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EJ4Climate Project

Community-led Indigenous Food Land and Wetland Biodiversity Corridor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Organization: Environmental Youth Alliance
Mission: The Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) empowers youth from equity-denied communities to become environmental stewards through land-based education and employment training programs that center on native plant horticulture, ecological restoration, plant medicine, and community leadership.

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Communities benefiting directly from the project: The wetland expansion project will directly benefit residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and East Vancouver, who are the most vulnerable to extreme weather events in the city.

Country: Canada

Other Organizations Involved: Ancestral Foodways Society Ancestral Food Ways is about restoring Indigenous cultural food systems in a holistic approach to the spiritual, mental, and emotional wellness of the people. Hosting indigenous communities of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, urban Indigenous community members from other parts of the world, and other BIPOC communities will also benefit from the project during engagement sessions where they will have the opportunity to connect with community members and engage in cultural celebrations.

Active Indigenous Food Land and Wetland Biodiversity @ Aril Yeo


The site was previously tidal mudflats and partially below the high tide line, with a stream running through it. In the 1910s, the tidal marshland and stream were covered with dirt and used as a city dump and sewer outfall. In the mid-1980s, residents reclaimed the area as a community-run public green space. The southern part of the Park has always been a wet spot, with drainage and stormwater flooding issues.

The neighborhood is densely-paved, making residents and wildlife far more vulnerable to extreme weather events. It also has the highest density of Indigenous People in the city. Many are not connected to the land nor have access to traditional food, fibers, medicine, and cultured plants. The breakdown of intergenerational knowledge-sharing caused by colonization means that Indigenous knowledge of biodiversity and cultural heritage to the land are missing from most conservation efforts, despite the usually considerable role of Indigenous People in preserving biodiversity.


Indigenous-led consultations will build on historical and local networks to engage communities in determining a shared conservation goal and action plan that recognizes the role of biocultural memory of Indigenous People and their culture in the preservation of biodiversity. Guided by Traditional Ecological Knowledge, the proposed expanded wetland ecosystem will connect two halves of Strathcona Park, which is currently divided by Hawks Avenue, and be able to conduct storm water throughout the stream.

The wetland expansion and creation of an Indigenous FoodLand and biodiversity corridor will also increase the accessibility of traditional foods, fibers and medicines for local residents. We aim to engage at least 40 community residents and 6 Indigenous community leaders throughout the planning stages.

Involving 200 EYA program participants in the invasive species removal, native plant horticulture, and harvesting of traditional plant medicines, the project will also benefit hundreds of BIPOC youth and youth living with a disability.

Participation in the project will allow these youth to develop essential skills in environmental stewardship, teamwork, and leadership to become future leaders in efforts around environmental justice.

The site preparation and planting will also involve 40 additional community volunteers, who will connect to the land and their community through participation in work parties. 

Main activities

  • We will lead community consultations to explore the relationship between human culture, heritage, history, and ecology in the park.
  • Indigenous conservationists and wetland experts will be hired to support conservation planning.
  • Six 10-week youth programs will be delivered, engaging 200 equity-denied youth volunteers to help carry out the project, including invasive plant removal, soil health tests, and plantings to create riparian and understory areas. Through hands-on activities led by trained facilitators, youth will build their knowledge and skills in restoration, natural infrastructure development, freshwater management, and climate adaptation.
  • Four community volunteer work parties will also be planned and delivered, recruiting and engaging 40 community members in 480 hours of volunteer work to build community and connect residents to the land.

Expected outcomes

The project will help develop a connected Indigenous FoodLand and biodiversity corridor to support local and migratory wildlife and Indigenous food sovereignty through access to traditional food, fibers, and medicines. It will also support climate change adaptation by mitigating issues of flooding, made worse by extreme weather events caused by climate change.