Wednesday January 18, 2023 | PRINCE GEORGE, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Today the BC government and Blueberry River First Nation celebrated their mutual achievement of a historic agreement that will guide them forward in a partnership approach to land, water and resource stewardship.
The agreement ensures that Blueberry River members can meaningfully exercise their Treaty 8 rights, and provide stability and predictability for industry in the region.
Making a significant contribution to the process of agreement was also Petronas Canada which is a major industry player in the region for production of liquified natural gas (LNG).
Historic and defining:
Chief of Blueberry River First Nation, Judy Desjarlais, recounted a bit of the path that led to the impasse beyond which negotiation happened, instead of another court case. She honoured the commitment of her nation to getting to this day.
Premier David Eby said that “rights, respect and reconciliation” were the key factors that helped make the historic agreement possible.
“I’ve always believed that negotiation, rather than litigation, is the way forward for achieving reconciliation and strengthening vital government-to-government relationships,” said Eby. “This historic agreement between British Columbia and Blueberry River First Nations not only brings more predictability for the region and local economy but it helps ensure that we are operating on the land in partnership to ensure sustainability for future generations.”
Minister of Indigenous Affairs Murray Rankin said the government chose to not appeal a supreme court ruling (on June 29, 2021) which said that the province had not met its obligations under Treaty 8. Instead of litigating (i.e. launching an appeal), the province — under then Attorney General David Eby — decided to negotiate. Everyone at today’s event seemed genuinely pleased with having proceeded in that direction.
Petronas president and CEO Izwan Ismail called today a “defining historic moment”, and that during the process he grew to appreciate the value of how the process was undertaken. He supports “a strong and inclusive economy” and addressing the “global energy crisis”.
How the deal works:
The agreement will transform how the Province and First Nations steward land, water and resources together, and address cumulative effects in Blueberry River’s Claim Area through restoration to heal the land, new areas protected from industrial development, and constraint on development activities while a long-term cumulative effects management regime is implemented.
In addition, it supports and advances the Province’s climate change strategy.
The work of achieving these goals will be carried out through a series of measures, including:
- a $200-million restoration fund by June 2025, which supports healing of the land from decades of legacy industrial disturbance;
- an ecosystem-based management approach for future land-use planning in Blueberry River’s most culturally important areas, with ambitious timelines to complete new local and watershed level, land use plans;
- limits on new petroleum and natural gas (PNG) development and a new planning regime for future oil and gas activities;
- protections for old forest and traplines during and through planning;
- land protections in Blueberry River’s high-value areas, which includes more than 650,000 hectares of protection from new PNG and forestry activities and will advance B.C.’s 30% land protections goal by 2030; and
- wildlife co-management efforts, including moose management through licensed hunter restrictions to support population recovery.
Blueberry River First Nations will receive $87.5 million as a financial package over three years, with an opportunity for increased benefits based on PNG revenue-sharing and provincial royalty revenues in the next two fiscal years.
The emcee for today was Josie Osborne. She is now the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation in the Eby Cabinet. She was previously the first-ever minister of the news Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship (a new ministry created by former Premier John Horgan) and as such worked on engagement for the negotiations that resulted in today’s accomplishment.
Osborne thanked the Petronas CEO for his time to participate in the process.
Also attending today were Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship; Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests; and George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Premier Eby also recognized Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship Deputy Minister Lori Halls, negotiator Tom McCarthy, and the counsel of Megan Giltrough.
- The agreement is focused in Blueberry River’s civil claim area, which includes areas that are important to Blueberry, and other Treaty 8 Nations, for practising their treaty rights.
- The agreement provides for annual reviews of implementation progress and effectiveness, and includes a formal three-year review.
- The Province and Blueberry River have agreed to expeditiously begin implementation, and in order to support the local economy, this agreement provides for a series of timber harvesting and oil and gas activities to proceed throughout Blueberry River’s claim area.
- In October 2021, the B.C. government and Blueberry River First Nations signed an initial agreement that provided the Nations with $65 million for land restoration, wildlife stewardship, and cultural and capacity investments.
- That agreement provided added security for many existing authorized activities to continue in Blueberry River’s claim area as negotiations ensued.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
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This journalism service has been operating since 2008 in the west shore, under the direction of editor and publisher Mary P Brooke: first as MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, then Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, then West Shore Voice News 2014-2020, then emerging fully online mid-2020 at islandsocialtrends.ca
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