With Wednesday marking six months since the B.C. Supreme Court’s cumulative impacts case ruling, Blueberry River First Nations and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations say they understand the decision seriously impacted the region and caused uncertainty for workers and local communities.
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Marvin Yahey, Chief of the Blueberry River First Nations, released a joint update Wednesday, stating the two parties continue to work together to improve land management processes to protect Treaty 8 rights while balancing the economy, local jobs and the environment.
“The work we are doing involves addressing over 100 years of impacted treaty rights. We undertake this work with urgency, and we are committed to doing this right. As we work together to build a path forward, it is our expectation that everyone in the region be treated with courtesy and respect,” said the joint statement on Wednesday.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in June that the provincial government had breached the nation’s rights under Treaty 8, signed more than 120 years ago, because it allowed development such as forestry and natural gas extraction without the nation’s approval.
The B.C. government and the First Nation signed a $65 million agreement in October to support land restoration and cultural programs.
Rankin said the initial agreement would provide $35 million for Blueberry River First Nations to undertake land restoration activities and create jobs for band members and business opportunities for companies operating in the region.
The other $30 million will go toward helping the First Nation protect its cultural way of life, expand its land management resources, and restore the health of wildlife through management programs.
The agreement also resulted in the restart of 195 forestry and oil projects placed on hold due to the court’s ruling.
However, 20 other projects, which had been approved, could not proceed without negotiation with the First Nation because they related to development in areas of cultural importance.
“Both parties remain committed to providing regular updates about these discussions, and we will continue to seek input from industry, local governments and residents where appropriate,” said the joint statement on Wednesday.
“Our shared goal is to establish sustainability and certainty for the benefit of everyone who lives and works here, in the service of securing a positive future for everyone in northeast British Columbia.”