The province and four First Nations in the northeastern corner of B.C. have come to an agreement over impacts of oil and gas development on the land.
Negotiations with leaders of the Fort Nelson, Saulteau, Halfway River and Doig River first nations when it comes to the final agreements could take up to two years, the province said earlier this month. Officials remain in discussions with McLeod Lake Indian Band, Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nations.
Details of the consensus document include a restoration fund that sees the province contribute more than $600 million over ten years toward restoration. That figures includes the $200 million restoration fund announced as part of the agreement with Blueberry River First Nation.
Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen said this step is about righting past wrongs and upholding the rights of Treaty 8 nations to hunt, fish and trap and carry out a traditional way of life.
“We need to come together to heal and restore the land, demonstrating how a new way of working in partnership to steward land and resources can not only be possible, but also prosperous for all,” he said.
This month, the province and Blueberry River First Nation announced they had reached a land management agreement following a 2021 B.C. Supreme Court decision. It had found B.C. had infringed upon the nation’s Treaty 8 rights because of the cumulative impacts of industrial development over decades.
That ruling also inspired the so-called consensus document.
Chief Justin Napoleon of Saulteau First Nations thanked Blueberry River First Nation for leading on the issue, adding that the consensus document marks the first step in a longer process addressing the past effects of poor land planning.
”I’m excited about the future now.”
Fort Nelson First Nation and Chief Sharleen Gale said her peoples look forward to working with B.C. and the other Treaty 8 communities as a stepping-stone toward fostering the well-being of the community and everyone living in the northeast.
Compared to the Blueberry River First Nation agreement, the consensus document is less specific about areas to be protected. Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin said additional information will be available in the coming weeks.
Gale added that her people will continue their work identifying future protected areas started more than a decade ago.