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.