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Creating community: student leader champions Indigenous inclusion at COP 28

February 08, 2024

In December, Simon Fraser University (SFU) sent a formal delegation of students, faculty and staff to the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Beedie School of Business graduate student and SFU COP delegate Tyler Mitchell attended week one of the international climate conference. During his time in Dubai, Mitchell gathered student delegates from SFU and the University of British Columbia (UBC) to meet with the Honourable George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, to discuss how the province plans to prioritize Indigenous and youth perspectives into the development of climate action policies and strategies.

I connected with Tyler to learn about his experiences at COP and to hear takeaways from his meeting with the honourable George Heyman.

Can you tell us about yourself and why you applied for SFU’s COP 28 delegation? 

As a proud member of Cowessess First Nation, I fully embrace the cultural traditions of my Saulteaux and Cree roots. My journey has been shaped by a deep commitment to Indigenous land stewardship, economic reconciliation and education equity for Indigenous communities.

One of my key motivations for joining the delegation stems from my interest in supporting Indigenous leadership in Canadian corporations. I believe in creating an environment that fosters Indigenous mentorship, paves the way for the next generation of Indigenous leaders to have a seat at the table and partake in significant roles in large Canadian corporations. I see this as not only an ethical imperative but also a strategic move that enriches diverse perspectives and values that support Indigenous communities.

It is crucial to ensure that our ways of being are sustainably respected, while also finding common ground with western science. My goal is to contribute to a mutually beneficial path forward in environmental stewardship, where Indigenous practices align with accountable solutions. This intersectionality is essential for creating a sustainable and inclusive future.

What were your initial goals before arriving in Dubai for COP 28? 

My initial goals centered around proactively advocating for Indigenous perspectives, fostering inclusive leadership in corporate settings, and contributing to the development of policies that honour our cultural heritage, while addressing contemporary challenges. By engaging in conversations with Indigenous representatives, sharing ideas and knowledge, and building relationships, COP 28 provided an opportunity to bridge the gap between Indigenous values and mainstream practices, fostering a more sustainable and equitable future.

During the conference you hosted a meeting with B.C. student delegates and B.C.’s Minster of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the honourable George Heyman, and members of his team. What were your key takeaways from the meeting?  

I left that meeting feeling immense pride. The student’s emphasis on Indigenous engagement and consultation showcased a profound understanding of the significance of incorporating Indigenous perspectives into climate action mitigation and future initiatives. As an Indigenous person, I was privileged to experience Indigenous allyship and dedication from my peers who shared a collaborative path forward with Canada's First Peoples.

Another takeaway from the meeting was the alignment of SFU’s strategic sustainability and climate action goals with the discussions we had with Minister Heyman. Engaging in global challenges such as the climate crisis and making a significant difference at home in British Columbia were central themes in our conversation. Minister Heyman and his team recognized the importance of collaborating with academic institutions like SFU to address the pressing issues of climate change.

Joining SFU’s COP delegation provides students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience at one of the largest international climate conferences in the world. By expanding the classroom to Dubai, what have you learned?  

This experience was transformative, offering insights and skills that go beyond what traditional campus-based learning can provide. My learnings at COP 28 added a unique layer to my Executive MBA journey.

The immersive nature of COP 28 allowed me to see the intersection of policy, advocacy, and sustainable practices at play, providing a holistic understanding of the challenges and opportunities in addressing climate action.

This experience challenged me in the best ways possible. I learned from a multitude of global experts, and I realized that I have a strong voice—that I can make a positive difference even on an international stage.

Do you have any takeaways to share with the SFU community?

I encourage the SFU community to remain engaged in these crucial conversations, to seek understanding, and to contribute to initiatives that align with our collective responsibility as stewards of the land and environment that we live on. Continue amplifying Indigenous perspectives and providing opportunities that include Indigenous voices at the forefront. Hiy Hiy!


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To learn more about SFU’s sustainability and climate action goals, view our 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action plan.