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In it for the long haul: Tides Canada’s commitment to enabling community-led transformation in the North

This letter, written by Tides Canada Northern Canada Program Lead Steve Ellis, was originally published in NNSL media as a letter to the editor. The original published letter can be found here.


The publisher of NNSL Media lobbed me a bit of a softball in his article “Krause talk buries obvious conclusion” (Yellowknifer, Wednesday, April 17, 2019), inviting me to share with readers about Tides Canada and the work it does in the North. It would be remiss of me if I did not take a swing.

First, I must make it quite clear that Tides Canada is a separate organization with no legal, financial, or governance ties to the U.S. Tides Foundation. Sometimes the two organizations are confused with each other given the similarity in names. Tides Canada is a leading national charity with a vision of a healthy environment, social equity, and economic prosperity for all Canadians. This is a profoundly Canadian aspiration that I dare say is shared by all of us, especially us northerners.

Tides Canada is governed by some exemplary Canadians, including a venture capitalist, a Chief of Staff to a past Prime Minister, an executive with deep experience in the energy sector, and a territorial Deputy Minister, to name just a few. These are hardly “environmental activists”.

Tides Canada has an annual budget of about $30M, most of which comes from Canadian donors. Approximately $3M of Tides Canada’s budget goes to the Northern Program, which my colleagues and I invest in community-led initiatives across the three territories and Inuit Nunangat. What we lack in financial might we endeavor to make up for with innovation, leadership, and collaboration. With our partners, we attempt to blaze trails by trying out new ideas, testing creative models, and forging relationships with strange bedfellows in the hopes of proving solutions to some of our key northern challenges.

Steve on the land with his son

I am extremely proud of the great work we are enabling across the North. Tides Canada supports next generation leaders and their networks, be it cultural revitalization initiatives led by Dene Nahjo and the Yellowknife Rainbow Coalition, or the Beaufort Delta leadership training led by BYTE Yukon. Through the NWT On The Land Collaborative, we partner with Indigenous governments, NGOs, the GNWT, and the North’s major diamond producers to enable on-the-land wellness and education opportunities for schools and communities. Through our EntrepreNorth program, we invest in early stage northern entrepreneurs to accelerate economic diversification. We support land and water stewardship efforts by contributing to community-based monitoring and guardian programs, from the Nahendeh Kehotsendi program of the Katl’odeeche First Nation to the Marian Lake Watershed Stewardship Program of the Tłı̨chǫ Government. And most recently, we have committed resources to various Indigenous language revitalization efforts. For a full listing of our grants and their stories go to

Yes, Tides Canada is in this for the long haul. Solutions to northern challenges will require sustained support from, and collaboration amongst, all sectors. Our northern population is too small and our challenges too significant for us to dismiss and demonize each other, no matter what our values might be. We need to stop painting each other as anti-mining radicals or anti-environment lobbyists. We must work together.

Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from the publisher of this paper’s daughter, who works for Tides Canada, and her partner, who works for the diamond industry. Ultimately their values and efforts complement each other, and with hard work they are journeying together in a common direction.

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