Environment: Current Problems

Forest Management

August 17, 2021


BC Government ignores First Nations Forest Strategy

Tŝilhqot’in, Lake Babine & Carrier Sekani Territories: Our Nations call on the Province to significantly rethink and revise the Forestry Intentions Paper content that is intended to address Crown Indigenous reconciliation, and commit to a process to co-draft a revised version of the Paper with our Nations, other interested First Nations, and the First Nations Forestry Council. The revised version of the Paper must set out how forestry laws and policies will be changed to address our Aboriginal title and rights in a manner consistent with the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “Declaration”) and BC’s own Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (“DRIPA”).

The Forestry Intentions Paper was developed without Indigenous participation. This contravened the Province’s own best practices, and the requirements of s. 3 of DRIPA, of co-developing legislation and policies with Indigenous peoples that deeply affect our Aboriginal title and rights and futures as Indigenous nations. the Forestry Intentions Paper only contemplates increasing the share of Indigenous participation in the forest sector without addressing the following more fundamental changes that are required:
• shifting from longstanding denial of Aboriginal title to actively implementing Aboriginal title and jurisdiction, including through the transition towards land returns to Indigenous peoples and joint Crown-Indigenous forestry management:

  • managing forestry in a way that protects and enhances the ability of Indigenous nations and our members to be able to meaningfully exercise our rights and uphold our cultural values, including by understanding and taking into account cumulative effects; and
  • significantly improving forestry revenue-sharing with affected Indigenous nations.

The province needs to begin working with our Nations to co-develop a substantially revised Forestry Intentions Paper that takes into account the issues outlined above.

February 16, 2021


BC Government ignores First Nations Forest Strategy

BC First Nations Forestry Council – The Forest Stewardship Council of Canada (FSC) has announced their full support of the BC First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’). Released in May 2019, the Forest Strategy was developed in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (MFLNRORD) to advance reconciliation and support the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It was fully endorsed by BC First Nations through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations in 2019.

“FSC Canada looks forward to accompanying the BC First Nations Forestry Council in the successful implementation of the Forest Strategy, along with an effective commitment from the Government of British Columbia to uphold UNDRIP,” says David Flood, Chair of the Board for FSC.

November 16, 2020


BC Government ignores First Nations Forest Strategy

NationTalk – [Op-Ed] BC First Nations in Forestry: What Does Commitment Mean? – In several letters sent to BC First Nations in 2018 and 2019 the Government committed to involving Nations in the development of forest policy, including legislative and regulatory review. Regardless of these commitments, the BC Government made significant changes to forest policies and legislation, such as Bill 21 (Forest and Range Practices Amendment Act, 2019) and Bill 22 (Forest Amendment Act, 2019), with no input from First Nations. This includes the development of regulations and policies that disproportionately impact small tenure holders, and puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Recently, Premier Horgan committed to “implementing the report, A New Future for Old Forests, in its totality” if re-elected; a report that was developed without meaningful input or engagement with First Nations.
In 2018, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) made a commitment to develop a revitalized BC & First Nations Forest Strategy (the “Forest Strategy”) in collaboration with First Nations to reflect their commitment to advance reconciliation, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and increase the involvement of First Nations in all areas of forestry.

n 2019, the Forest Strategy was drafted in collaboration with MFLNRORD, based on recommendations First Nations have provided for over a decade. The First Nations Leadership Council and BC First Nations fully endorsed the Forest Strategy in 2019 through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations. However, the BC Government still has not endorsed or committed to implementing the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy

May 1, 2019


BC Government ignores First Nations Forest Strategy

BC First Nations Forest Strategy (Draft) May 2019

Guiding principles

  1. To advance reconciliation by recognizing First Nations as governments with an increasing role in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources in BC; NOT ADDRESSED
  2. To honour and move forward on the commitments made by the Province to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP- guided by Articles 25-32 and specifically Articles 26, 28 and 29) ) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls-to-Action (“TRC Calls to Action”); and LIMITED
  3. To respect and promote alignment with case law, including the Tsilhqot’in Decision NOT ADDRESSED

The six (6) goals of the BC First Nations Forest Strategy

Goal 1: Shared Governance and Joint Decision-Making NOT ADDRESSED
Goal 2: A Strong Forest Economy that Supports Meaningful Sharing of Revenues with First Nations NIOT ADDRESSED
Goal 3: Forest Legislation and Policy Development and Reform LIMITED (reference Indigenous involvement NOT collaboration)
Goal 4: Tenure Reform that Recognizes Undrip and Supports a Healthy and Strong Forest Sector NOT ADDRESSED
Goal 5: Collaborative Stewardship and Land Use Planning NOT ADDRESSED
Goal 6: Maximize First Nations Involvement in the Forest Sector NOT ADDRESSED

The BC Government has signed off on full implementation of “A New Future for Old Forest” released on April 30, 2020 that pays lip service to collaboration and engagement with Indigenous people with extremely limited focus on addressing any of the above Guiding Principles and Goals highlighted by the “BC First Nations Forest Strategy “– in collaboration with the BC Government!

February 3, 2021


First Nations issues with the 2021-2031 Timiskaming Forest Management Plan

Toronto Star – First Nations leaders from Temagami, Matagami, Matachewan, Teme-Augama Anishnabai, Beaverhouse, and Timiskaming cited concerns that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Timiskaming Forest Alliance Inc. (TFAI) were not taking seriously their concerns or the long-term health and sustainability of the forest and the use of herbicides.

The First Nations claim that after multiple efforts to work with the MNRF and the TFAI, “it has become clear that legitimate efforts to improve the 2021-2031 Timiskaming Forest Management Plan and ensure that First Nations share in the economic benefits of the forest, were not taken seriously.” They added that “many serious issues remain unresolved.”

“Over many years, the First Nations involved in the Timiskaming Forest have called for the MNRF to take action to include the objectives of Term and Condition 56 within the objectives of the Timiskaming (plan),” the chiefs said in a joint statement to The Speaker.

They reasoned that inclusion of Term and Condition 56 within the forest management plan “would identify and implement ways of achieving more equal participation for our Indigenous communities in the benefits provided through the FMP process.”

If included within the FMP, Chiefs Moore Frappier and Farr said those objectives would include, but are not limited to:

  • Number of job opportunities provided with forest and mill operation in the vicinity to indigenous communities.
  • Volume of wood supplied to wood processing facilities such as sawmills in indigenous communities;
    Number of facilitated indigenous third-party licence negotiations with existing licences where opportunities exist;
  • Number of forest resource licences provided to Aboriginal people where unallocated Crown timber exists close to reserves;
  • Number of programs developed to provide jobs, training and income for Aboriginal people in forest management operations through joint projects with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and;
  • Number of other forest resources addressed that are affected by forest management.
  • In addition to that, the chiefs said the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and Temagami First Nation want to see a reduction in the use of herbicides, and, ultimately, a plan with clear targets to eliminate herbicide use and implement alternatives.

They also want to:

  • revisit the size and nature of clear cuts within the Timiskaming Forest;
  • create a 60-metre buffer on all riparian areas, any exceptions to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with First Nations;
  • provide for moose protection outside of MEAs;
  • consult with First Nations to ensure inclusion of relevant traditional ecological knowledge;
  • revise procedures to ensure any trapper who may be impacted by harvesting is notified and meaningful accommodations are made;
  • commitment to include, utilize, and track the use of traditional ecological knowledge in Forest Management Plans and Annual Work plans.

September 22, 2020


First Nations lawsuit against Forest Management Plan

Wawa News – This legal action is being advanced by three Ontario First Nations. It focuses on the refusal by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to order an Environmental Assessment (EA) or impose conditions on the Gordon Cosens Forest Management Plan (FMP). At issue is whether conditions for sustainability are met and consultation with First Nations has been done properly for the 20,000 square km area. The First Nations say the answer to both questions is no.

The matter involves forestry in Treaty No. 9, the area known as “Height of Land Treaty” where all waters flow north to James Bay and Hudson Bay. Chapleau Cree First Nation, Missanabie Cree First Nation and Brunswick House First Nation have called this their homeland since long before Confederacy and the forming of Ontario.
Each First Nation has several Sustainable Forest Licences (SFLs) overlapping their respective territories. For decades, they have attempted to find ways to achieve a more equal and full participation in forestry and forest management – an industry with a far-reaching industrial footprint and worth over $15B. They are seeking to be partners in ensuring that the forests remain healthy in the long-term, and Ontario’s forest industry is sustainable.

On August 31, the First Nations launched a Judicial Review of a May 2020 decision to refuse their request for an EA. It is a significant challenge to Ontario’s recently approved 10-year FMP for the Gordon Cosens Forest Management Unit (FMU). In June 2020, the Ford Government revoked the Declaration Order and amended Environmental Assessment Act Regulation 334 to expressly exempt Crown forest management from EA and eliminate the former Declaration Order conditions. The Ontario EA regime has been further diminished by the July 2020 Omnibus Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 (see Schedule 6), which makes major amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act.

“Our efforts to engage with Ontario have not worked, and the current approach to forestry in Ontario is resulting in the death of the boreal forest by a thousand cuts,” said Chief St. Denis (Brunswick House First Nation). “Ontario’s must work hand in hand with us to stop the damage and create a new approach. Removing the Declaration Order and EA protections during a pandemic is wrong. We need a proactive government that will collaborate with us until we all see change and more sustainable forestry practices on the land where we live.”

January 9, 2022


Indigenous Rights: Conservation vs Logging: Fairy Creek

Toronto Star: The Indigenous-led Fairy Creek protest on southern Vancouver Island, active since August 2020 and with 1,188 arrests, so far, is the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.

The RCMP has reportedly spent $6.8 million on policing in 2021, cycling in officers from round the province for one- to three-week stints. Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, who has invited the protestors to his nation’s traditional territory, is calm in the face of locals who support logging….“Uncle Bill” tells of the dissent he faces from his own Pacheedaht band council, whose members value the proceeds of logging and have asked the protestors to leave their territory. It’s a difficult thing for me to accept,” says Uncle Bill. “we are in the end game. And we are fighting for the last of our Mothers ancient old growth.”

Fairy Creek’s struggle has moved beyond the old-growth trees. Indigenous logging is a “total victory of the Indian Act”, according to Uncle Bill – the legislation was meant to eradicate Indigenous culture in favor of assimilation, and has made the Pacheedaht financially dependent on the outsiders’ forestry companies.

December 1, 2021


Indigenous Rights: Conservation vs Logging: Fairy Creek

NationTalk – First Nations leaders from across B.C. and Technical Advisory Panel member Dr. Rachel Holt called on the provincial government to take faster action to protect threatened old-growth forests and commit the resources necessary to support First Nations through this process with immediate deferrals. Following the government’s announcement of its intention to defer 2.6 million hectares of at-risk old-growth forests, they gave a 30-day deadline upon First Nations to decide on logging deferrals, while themselves taking more than 18 months to reach this point. As this arbitrary and rushed deadline draws to a close, First Nation leaders and experts are criticizing both the process itself and the lack of progress on the ground.

Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond stated “British Columbia has used Indigenous self-determination and consent as part of its justification for the 30-day time limit for Indigenous decision-making regarding old growth deferrals. This is incoherent and disingenuous. The UN Declaration makes clear that consent must be ‘free, prior and informed.’ Unilaterally determined approaches and timelines is not ‘free, prior and informed’ decision-making. Yet this is exactly what BC has done – taking 18 months to develop its approach without First Nations and then giving First Nations 30 days for their decision-making.

This is not co-operation— it is not a basis for consent.”

September 9, 2021


Indigenous Rights: Conservation vs Logging: Fairy Creek

Ricochet“Double standard: B.C. requires Indigenous consent for forest conservation but not logging”.
Among the specific recommendations in an independent report “A New Future for Old Forests: A Strategic Review of How British Columbia Manages for Old Forests Within its Ancient Ecosystems” is the deferral of logging in all at-risk old-growth forests in B.C. within six months. This deadline has long passed.
On the election debate stage last fall, Premier John Horgan said every tree in B.C. grows in the territory of a First Nation and protection of forests must be done with them. This is true, and it’s a great standard. But it’s currently a double standard because that’s not what’s required for logging. Logging tenures have been established without Indigenous consent. While companies must consult nations on their cutting plans, they don’t need to receive a yes.

The B.C. NDP’s requirement of consent for conservation but not for logging has been rightly criticized as “ridiculous” by Indigenous leaders.

Many First Nations have a stake in logging in their territory. But far from their rightful place as decision-makers, their role is too often limited to revenue-sharing agreements. In these agreements, nations receive some of the money generated by logging. These deals can mean a lot, especially in remote communities, as they provide needed revenue and sometimes other benefits like jobs. After hundreds of years of having their resources stolen and territories degraded, few First Nations are in a position to turn down sources of revenue. But this is the unfair choice the B.C. government is forcing on communities.

Substantial funding to support nations and ensure choosing deferrals doesn’t mean a loss of revenue has been called for repeatedly by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), among others. So far, not a single dollar has been earmarked for this purpose by the B.C. NDP government.

Permanent protection of old-growth requires nation-to-nation negotiation and the return of land to Indigenous Peoples. This process will take a lot of work and time. But time is what old-growth forests don’t have. In the year after the old-growth strategic review, the number of permits for old-growth logging actually increased.
The review panel called for deferrals to provide breathing room for conversations. Their report frames deferrals as a starting point, not the final outcome. The government has torqued this, insisting deferrals take months if not years, while status quo logging continues in the meantime.

Public outrage grows, with the blockades around Fairy Creek set to become the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.

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