The first, the Economic Benefits Agreement, will give the Fort Nelson First Nation a share of revenues from resource development in their treaty territory. That includes natural gas activity in the Horn River Basin.
"The economic benefits mean we will continue to develop our business ventures and participate in future economic opportunities while protecting our lands and resources so that our grandchildren will be able to continue to exercise their treaty rights," says Kathi Dickie, Fort Nelson First Nation Chief.
The second agreement, the Oil and Gas Consultation Agreement, is the first phase of a broader agreement that will include all ministries. It establishes a consultation process and timelines for referrals for petroleum and natural gas tenures and oil and gas development permitting activities in the area. It is currently between the Fort Nelson First Nation, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Oil and Gas Commission.
"By bringing certainty to the land base, agreements like this support our government's focus on job creation and investment, while providing economic opportunities for First Nations and non- First Nations families," says Polak. "The Province looks forward to continuing to build a strong relationship with the Fort Nelson First Nation."
Following the signing of these two agreements, a forum called the Horn River Leadership Group Initiative will be created. Its intention is to bring together the Province, Fort Nelson and natural gas producers to discuss how to continue development in the Horn River Basin in a way that respects treaty rights. The Fort Nelson First Nation will receive $1.5 million in funding to take part in the Initiative.
Dickie says these types of partnerships ensure they can have a part in the future of their lands.
"We are pleased with the recognition of the need for protected areas within our territory which can co-exist with development in other areas," she says. "We look forward to working with industry and government to ensure development happens in a sustainable way."
An additional $2 million will be invested in a Community Development Planning Fund that will help the First Nation upgrade community roads, as well as construct an arbour for traditional dances, a wellness centre, and a new lands department building. It will also go towards research to monitor the impact of oil and gas activity in their traditional territory.
The province expects these agreements to help stimulate investment in the northeast for the next 12 years.