BC, First Nations set collaborative path for development
Four BC First Nations have reached an agreement with the provincial government that will pave the way for collaborative future land use and resource planning across the northeast part of the province, the province announced January 20.
The new agreement with four Treaty 8 First Nations – the Fort Nelson, Saulteau, Halfway River and Doig River First Nations – follows on the heels of an historic agreement with another Treaty 8 First Nation, the Blueberry River First Nations, announced on January 18.
Both agreements are part of the BC government’s response to a June 2021 BC Supreme Court ruling that the constitutionally-protected rights of Treaty 8 First Nations had been breached by the cumulative impacts of industrial developments across their traditional territories.
“Our shared work to co-develop these agreements represents a historic milestone for Treaty 8 Nations, for BC and for all of us who believe the path to reconciliation is through negotiation, not litigation,” BC premier David Eby said. “The future lies in a partnership approach to land, water and resource stewardship, one that strikes a better balance to honour Treaty 8, while providing more stability for people and industry in the region.”
Since the Supreme Court’s decision, the BC government has worked closely with all Treaty 8 First Nations, culminating first in the Blueberry River agreement and then in what is being called a “Consensus Document” with the other four First Nations.
Initiatives set out in the Consensus Document are intended to create a development path that meets the province’s obligations to uphold the constitutionally protected rights of Treaty 8 First Nations, restore the environment and support responsible resource development and economic activity in the northeast.
“For many years our treaty rights have been neglected and discounted, and our treaty lands and our communities have been fragmented by the cumulative impacts of poorly planned land-use decisions,” Saulteau First Nations chief Justin Napoleon said. “This new agreement shows that this government intends to work with us to find new ways for co-management and true partnership.”
BC is continuing to negotiate with the other Treaty 8 First Nations – the McLeod Lake Indian Band, Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nations – to address their respective issues arising from the Supreme Court ruling.
“Indigenous partnerships and participation are integral to the success of the natural gas and oil industry in British Columbia,” said Lisa Baiton, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “We are looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the details within the agreements which we believe can chart a path forward that enables the responsible development of BC’s rich natural resources in a way that ensures mutual benefits for industry, indigenous Nations and British Columbians across the province.”