Home Sections Indigenous Peoples BC & Tahltan: More reconciliation, more economic certainty

BC & Tahltan: More reconciliation, more economic certainty

Historic consent-based agreement | Providing certainty for investors

Monday June 6, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


Today an historic moment of signing an agreement took place between the Province of BC and Indigenous Peoples.

Tahltan Central Government and the Province have entered into the first consent-based decision-making agreement under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act).

Speaking at the Monday morning media event were Chad Norman Day, president, Tahltan Central Government; Premier John Horgan; Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship; and Justin Himmelright of Skeena Resources.

Tahltan Territory in northern BC is 95,933 square kilometres, or the equivalent of 11% of the province of British Columbia. The population is 2,746. Back in June 2021 the Tahltan Central Government and the provincial government announced the start of negotiations, including fulsome partner and stakeholder engagement. | BC Government page on Tahltan Central Government

Inclusive and sustainable:

Premier Horgan spoke about building an economy that inclusive and sustainable. He said that “focused efforts will produce less uncertainty, more reconciliation, remove restrictions to economic growth,and encourage investment”.

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Premiier John Horgan, June 6, 2022.

“There will be certainty on the land with consent of indigenous peoples,” said Horgan today.

“Shared decision-making is a key aspect of the progress. BC is a a place of collaboration and extraordinary resources,” the premier said. He noted that Indigenous people want to cultivate and steward their land “for the first nations and all British Columbians”, adding that by “working together we can do extraordinary things”.

The Tahltan agreement was described today as “the first of its kind to go through environmental assessment as well as Section 7”. Section 7 of the Declaration Act provides a mechanism for the Province to recognize in law Indigenous jurisdiction and decisions within the provincial statutory decision-making framework. Section 7 of the Environmental Assessment Act provides the enabling legislation required under the Declaration Act for the decision-making agreement between Tahltan and the Province.

Minister Osborne said the two governments will work together with transparency and accountability while supporting sustained economic development and furthering reconciliation.

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Justin Himmelright, Senior Vice President, External Affairs & Sustainability, Skeena Resources, during BC government announcement, June 6, 2022.

Attracting investors:

“Globally this is profound,” said Horgan. Investors will look to BC as a jurisdiction with shared interests, he said.

BC is moving forward with a new approach to land, water and resource management, said Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship.

This is a consent-based agreement for decision-making, said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “It’s a shift in the way we make decisions in our province.” He emphasized that this will lead to “an economy that works for everyone”.

Justin Himmelright, Senior Vice-President, External Affairs & Sustainability said today: “We’re very excited to be here today to announce this agreement. This is a very significant agreement. We’re happy to have played some role in it.”

Himmelright explained that a previous existing gold-mining project has great assets (like road access, permitting tailing and waste water management facilities, and some green infrastructure) as a legacy from the previous project, in support of future projects. Project design and permitting, mentoring and capacity building, as well as collaboration support have been provided by Skeena Resources.

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BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation signing the agreement with Tahltan Central Government, June 6, 2022.

Consent-based decision-making:

Tahltan Central Government and the Province have entered into the first consent-based decision-making agreement under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act).

This agreement honours Tahltan’s jurisdiction in land-management decisions in Tahltan Territory, in recognition of Tahltan’s title and rights within its territory. The agreement advances reconciliation as well as provides clarity and predictability for the Eskay Creek Revitalization Project.

“Today marks an exciting step forward in the evolution of the relationship between the Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia,” said Chad Norman Day, President, Tahltan Central Government.

“Reconciliation is not achieved with just one step. It requires ongoing innovation, collaboration and leaning into discomfort. For the Tahltan people, strengthening and preserving our culture, values and independence is why we keep pushing forward on this journey. The Tahltan Central Government has been clear on behalf of all Tahltan people that there will be no world-class mining jurisdiction in Tahltan Territory without robust Tahltan stewardship, which must include world-class wildlife and fisheries management, strong environmental mitigation measures and recognition of our 1910 Declaration. The Tahltan Nation and the Province have a long journey ahead walking and living on the path to reconciliation, and we look forward to building on our relationship together. I thank all of those who have worked on this historic agreement, which better recognizes Tahltan jurisdiction over our homelands. It has been generations in the making. Mēduh.”

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Joint news release from the BC Government and Tahltan Central Government, June 6, 2022.

Premier John Horgan said: “This historic step shifts B.C.’s legal decision-making framework to respect First Nations jurisdiction, recognize the inherent rights of the Tahltan and provide a clear, stable and sustainable path for everyone to work together. This is reconciliation in action, in the real world. The Tahltan Nation is a strong partner. By working together, we are delivering on the promise of reconciliation, supporting predictability for business and encouraging responsible investment in B.C.”

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President Chad Norman Day of the Tahltan Central Government, at BC government press conference on June 6, 2022.

This agreement outlines consent-based decision-making related to the environmental assessment of the Eskay Creek Revitalization Project. The governments are working together to change B.C.’s traditional approach to environmental assessments and permit authorizations by placing Tahltan values and rights at the forefront.

Together, the shared intent is to create a model for sustainable mining and world-class environmental practices and standards. The agreement helps advance reconciliation with the Tahltan Nation, while providing certainty for the Eskay Creek Revitalization Project.

Work underway:

“As an already developed mine site with existing road access, waste management facilities, nearby access to green power and robust economics, Indigenous consent is an essential step in an efficient approval process for Eskay Creek,” said Justin Himmelright, Senior Vice-President of external affairs and sustainability, Skeena Resources. “We look forward to working with our Tahltan partners and the governments of British Columbia and Canada to bring this iconic project back into production.”

The consent-based decision-making process outlined in the agreement demonstrates that reconciliation and economic development can go hand in hand by supporting strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards as guided by the Tahltan people. This agreement positions B.C. as a preferred destination for ESG investors and is a tangible demonstration of successful collaboration with First Nations on decisions that affect them and their territories. It reflects the ability to co-create regulatory certainty for major projects.

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Quotes (provided by BC Government):

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – “This agreement is the first consent-based agreement for decision-making ever to be negotiated under the Declaration Act. It is a tangible example of the Province’s commitment to changing our relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Together, the Tahltan Central Government and the Province are leading the way toward a new model for advancing free, prior and informed consent.”

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Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, on June 6, 2022.

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – “Through this consent agreement, we are weaving together the processes of two governments with both Tahltan knowledge and western science informing our shared environmental assessment decision-making and supporting collaborative and ecologically sound economic development. We are breaking new ground in how the provincial government, First Nations and companies can work together – recognizing jurisdiction for decisions in a Nation’s territory. We are creating regulatory clarity and greater certainty for investors while protecting our natural environment for the generations to come.”

Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship – “This agreement is a remarkable milestone for the Province and the Tahltan Central Government and a powerful example of what can be achieved when we work together. We will build on this progress as we develop a path forward with First Nations toward collective stewardship, fair and timely decisions, and a resource-management system that supports reconciliation, environmental sustainability and lasting economic benefits for British Columbians.”

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===== Quick Facts:

  • On Nov. 28, 2019, the Declaration Act was passed into law, and B.C. become the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement the UN Declaration.
  • The Province’s StrongerBC Economic Plan is based on extensive engagement with Indigenous Peoples to address their full participation and leadership in all aspects of B.C.’s economy.

===== RELATED:

BC launches new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship (February 25, 2022)

Premier addresses old-growth logging in rollout of modernized forestry policy (June 1, 2021)