Forest, Range & Recreation Resource Analysis Table of Contents

9.2 Current Initiatives

British Columbia is presently pursuing policy initiatives that address ecological, economic and social issues at provincial, national and international levels. This policy development directly and indirectly addresses the concept of sustainability. In some cases these initiatives have evolved continuously over the last 10 years, while others were undertaken suddenly to address situations requiring immediate attention. Together, they represent a broad framework for achieving sustainability in forest management in British Columbia, by attending to not only timber supply and processing but also critical social and environmental issues. Each of these initiatives is discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Major Government Initiatives

9.2.1 Aboriginal Initiatives

Historically, First Nations and aboriginal peoples have not received an equitable share of the benefits derived from the forest economy of British Columbia. Although the early forest industry relied heavily on First Nations workers, changes to structure and practices in the forest sector have reduced direct employment. At the same time, relatively few First Nations have acquired forest tenures in the province.

The Ministry of Forests has been working to increase First Nations participation in the forest sector by including First Nations in forest management planning and by actively promoting economic development in First Nations communities. Over the past several years, the number of First Nations holding forest tenures has increased significantly, First Nations workers have received training in forest protection and regeneration, and the Ministry of Forests has developed a cooperative relationship with many First Nations bands and tribal councils.

The province has recently made a substantial commitment of resources to seek permanent resolution to outstanding land title and self governance issues through the negotiation of modern treaties. The Ministry of Forests will play a support role in the treaty making process by providing information and advice on areas of land and resource management. Treaty making will involve nearly every program administered by the ministry in all areas of the province.

Aboriginal issues are addressed by the Ministry of Forests through three distinct processes: interim measures, treaty negotiations and additional programs and initiatives.

Interim Measures

Interim measures are activities designed to promote economic self-sufficiency for aboriginal communities, increase aboriginal involvement in land and resource decisions and encourage cooperation between First Nations and the Ministry of Forests prior to the negotiation and settlement of treaties. At a minimum, interim measures must address the province’s legal obligations to First Nations, but preferably should establish a healthy working relationship between the Ministry of Forests and First Nations.

The province has legal obligations to First Nations, arising from a June 1993, decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal in the case of Delgamuukw vs. the Queen. This overturned, in part, the 1991 decision, in particular finding aboriginal title was not extinguished. The appeal decision is outlined in the following points.

In order to ensure that aboriginal rights are not unjustifiably infringed upon by forest management activities, Ministry of Forests districts consult with local First Nations during the drafting and approval of forest development plans. The government has released a policy respecting the protection of aboriginal rights, in the context of resource management.

In addition, the government is committed to the negotiation of pre-treaty Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to formalize the consultative relationship between First Nations and the Ministry of Forests. By bringing First Nations into the resource management decision-making process, MOUs reduce the potential for misunderstanding and confrontation over forest resource decisions.

An example of a recent MOU agreement is the MOU Respecting Resource Planning and Community Economic Development signed by the Dawson Creek Forest District and the Saulteau Indian Band. The agreement provides a framework for consultation between the ministry and the band, and for the negotiation of subsidiary agreements in other areas, such as planning, training and economic development.

As well, the Ministry of Forests has initiated consultation with First Nations on other policy initiatives. For example, to review the draft Forest Practices Code, community information sessions were arranged in consultation with the two province-wide First Nations organizations, First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Through these sessions, the ministry received valuable feedback on the Forest Practices Code.

Treaty Negotiations

Treaties are agreements between First Nations and the governments of British Columbia and Canada that define the rights of aboriginal people with respect to lands, resources, social services, self-government, environment, wildlife and other issues particular to each individual First Nation.

Unlike most of Canada, British Columbia is one of the provinces where First Nations and the government are not bound by treaties. Since confederation, successive provincial governments maintained a view that aboriginal rights and title were extinguished and that responsibility for settling land claims rested solely with Canada. After signing Treaty 8 in the Peace River area at the turn of the century, Canada withdrew from the treaty making process in British Columbia for over 70 years.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada gave a split decision on a land title suit brought by the Nisga’a Tribal Council. The Canadian government revised its land claim policy after this case and opened negotiations with the Nisga’a Tribal Council to address long outstanding issues such as land title, access to resources and self-governance. The province continued to hold the view that Canada held sole responsibility to solve these difficult issues.

In 1990, the province participated in a tripartite British Columbia Claims Task Force, seeking ways to arrive at negotiated solutions to the controversial native land claims problem. Significant recommendations from the task force included, negotiation and implementation of modern day treaties and the creation of an independent Treaty Commission to facilitate the negotiations. In 1991, the new provincial government endorsed the recommendations and generally recognized aboriginal title and the right to self-governance.

Concurrent to participation on the task force, the province joined the land claim negotiations between the Nisga’a Tribal Council and Canada. This move, along with implementation of the task force recommendations, signalled to First Nations and Canada the province’s willingness to seek long-term negotiated solutions to the land claim question in British Columbia.

The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs leads treaty negotiations for the province, and the Ministry of Forests is a key participant in the process. The treaty negotiation process includes a number of different components and parties.

Treaty Commission Legislation

On May 18, 1993, the provincial government passed the Treaty Commission legislation leading to the establishment of the B.C. Treaty Commission. The commission is an independent body of five representatives appointed by the federal and provincial governments and the First Nations Summit, an umbrella organization of B.C. First Nations. To date, the Commission has accepted more than 40 statements of intent to negotiate from First Nations.

Treaty Negotiation Advisory Committee

In order to ensure that the interests of all British Columbians are reflected in treaty talks, the government has formed a Treaty Negotiation Advisory Committee (TNAC) to consult with provincial negotiators during negotiations. TNAC membership includes all major provincial interest and industry groups as well as several sectoral subcommittees, including one for Lands and Forests.

Federal-Provincial Cost-Sharing Memorandum of Understanding

Under this agreement, signed in June, 1993, the primary responsibility for funding treaties continues to lie with the federal government. British Columbia has responsibility for the allocation of Crown lands for treaties, and for some of the capital transfer and self-government costs for programs or services currently delivered by the province.

The federal government has responsibility for most of the capital costs, and for any fisheries and self-government costs for programs or services currently delivered by the federal government. The Ministry of Forests is a key participant in the joint federal-provincial working group which coordinates the application of the cost-sharing agreement.

Commitments to Openness in Negotiations

In September 1994, the provincial government and the Union of B.C. Municipalities signed an agreement which guaranteed local government participation in treaty negotiations. As well, in November 1994, the province released all signed pre-treaty agreements to the public, and applied the provisions of openness to pre-treaty agreements.

Other Negotiations

In addition to treaty negotiations under the Treaty Commission process, the province is engaged in comprehensive treaty negotiations with the Nisga’a Tribal Council and in negotiations for an adhesion to Treaty 8 with the McLeod Lake Indian Band. The Ministry of Forests is providing resource analysis and policy support to provincial treaty negotiators in both situations.

The Ministry of Forests provides support to government negotiators by:

Aboriginal Programs and Initiatives

Following is a summary of additional programs in the Ministry of Forests intended to increase aboriginal participation in the forest sector.

First Nations Forestry Council

The First Nations Forestry Council is made up of 12 First Nations representatives and eight industry representatives. The council is mandated to develop a strategy to increase aboriginal participation across the forest sector. The council submitted a strategic plan to the ministers of Forests and Aboriginal Affairs in February 1995.

Native Orientation Program

This program provides aboriginal trainees with 4-12 months of on-the-job experience in Ministry of Forests offices, working in both technical forestry and clerical areas.

Forest Worker Development Program

This program provides forestry training to aboriginal workers and other groups, with the goal of creating a pool of highly skilled local employees for the forestry contracting community.

Unit Crew Program

Made up of over 400 fully trained aboriginal forest fire fighters, the unit crews increasingly form the backbone of provincial fire protection.

Fire Prevention Technician Training Initiative

Provides a 16-week intensive training program in fire prevention and forestry to unit crew members, upgrading their skills and promoting continued employment.

Aboriginal Forestry Advisors

Aboriginal Forestry Advisors act as liaisons between First Nations communities and the Ministry of Forests in 40 forest districts and regions, to increase aboriginal participation in economic development, training and planning initiatives.

Joint Ventures

District staff meet with industry associations and First Nations to encourage joint ventures and promote cooperation among First Nations, industry and government. A number of joint ventures are already operating in British Columbia, creating opportunities for First Nations and established companies alike.
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