A view of an area burned in the 2017 Hanceville fire west of Williams Lake as seen at the end of May 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

B.C. First Nations demand full participation in development of province’s forest policy

'Policy should reflect prosperous future for Indigenous, non-Indigenous': First Nations leaders

Some First Nations in B.C. say they want to participate in revising the province’s forest policy so it will reflect a shared and prosperous future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

A joint press release issued by the Tsilhqot’in National Government, Lake Babine Nation and Carrier Sekani First Nations, on Tuesday, Aug. 16 noted the province wrote to First Nations on July 6, 2021 outlining plans for Indigenous engagement to move forward with a new initiative called Modernizing Forest Policy, building off of a similarly titled Forestry Intentions Paper released by forests minister Katrine Conroy in June 2021.

Nitsil?in (Chief) Joe Alphonse, tribal chair, Tsilhqot’in National Government stated in the news release the Forestry Intentions Paper was developed without Indigenous participation.

“This contravened the province’s own best practices, and the requirements of section three of DRIPA, of co-developing legislation and policies with Indigenous peoples that deeply affect our Aboriginal title and rights and futures as Indigenous nations.”

A Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Operations spokesperson responded to Black Press Media’s request for comments noting the release of the intentions paper marks a starting point for discussions on modernizing forest policy in B.C.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with First Nations as we move this important work forward,” the ministry spokesperson said.

The intentions paper represents a vision for a forestry sector that is more adaptable, gets more value from wood products, and is more inclusive and the intentions paper is the beginning of the discussion, and the ministry looks forward to further engagement as it works together and builds a more diverse forest sector.

“In partnership with First Nations titleholders, this new approach will ensure the benefits of forestry are shared more widely and fairly with Indigenous people,” the spokesperson stated.

“Our government is happy the Tsilhqot’in Nation, Lake Babine Nation and Carrier Sekani First Nations want to be more involved in working with us to develop a forestry sector that works for all British Columbians.”

READ MORE: Redistributing B.C. forest licences a long-term project, Horgan says

Chief Murphy Abraham, Lake Babine Nation, said the province is at a defining moment in the development of relations between the Crown and Indigenous peoples.

He said the recently published Forestry Intentions Paper is not a road map for a more just and robust future together that they expect the Premier and Minister Conroy to build with them, but rather “a ringing endorsement of the status quo that ensures continuing conflict and uncertainty in our forests.”

Collectively the First Nations are calling on the province to significantly rethink and revise the Forestry Intentions Paper and to commit to a process to co-draft a revised version of the paper with them, other interested First Nations, and the First Nations Forestry Council.

READ MORE: FOREST INK: Ways to modernize B.C. forest policy

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