The Province and four Treaty 8 First Nations – Fort Nelson, Saulteau, Halfway River and Doig River First Nations – have reached consensus on a collaborative approach to land and resource planning, and to advance regional solutions to benefit everyone living in northeastern B.C. and Treaty 8 territory.
The agreements follow a June 2021 B.C. Supreme Court ruling that determined that the constitutionally protected Treaty 8 rights of the Blueberry River First Nations have been breached by the cumulative impacts of industrial development authorized by successive provincial governments over many years.
Since the court decision, these First Nations and the Province have worked closely to co-develop an initial partnership approach for the planning and management of lands and resources. Together, the Province and partner First Nations have co-developed a set of initiatives, termed the Consensus Document. It will address the cumulative impacts of industrial development on the meaningful exercise of Treaty 8 rights in the territory, restore the land, and provide stability and predictability for industry in the region.
The initiatives set out in the Consensus Document build a path that meets the Crown’s obligations to uphold the constitutionally protected rights of Treaty 8 First Nations, restore the environment and support responsible resource development and economic activity in the northeast. This will ensure that, together, the Province and the First Nations are stewarding the land in an effort to achieve sustainability for future generations.
The initiatives include:
- a new approach to wildlife co-management that promotes improved shared understanding and management of wildlife;
- new land-use plans and protection measures;
- a “cumulative effects” management system, linked to natural resource landscape planning and restoration initiatives;
- pilot projects to advance shared decision-making for planning and stewardship activities;
- a multi-year, shared restoration fund to help heal the land;
- a new revenue-sharing approach to support the priorities of Treaty 8 First Nations communities; and
- actions to promote education about Treaty 8 through collaborative promotion, anti-racism training and awareness building.
The Province will continue to provide regular updates to and seek input from industry, local governments and residents of the northeast as the work continues. In addition, discussions are ongoing with McLeod Lake Indian Band, Prophet River First Nation and West Moberly First Nations.
Chief Trevor Makadahay, Doig River First Nation –
“Doig River First Nation has been advocating for a meaningful role in decision-making in natural resource development in our territory for many years and we are looking forward to working with the Province in the months ahead to make this a reality. We are confident that through this important work, which includes developing a new fiscal relationship between Treaty 8 First Nations and the Province, we will create economic certainty, heal the land and our people, and create overall stability for the region for generations to come.”
Chief Sharleen Gale, Fort Nelson First Nation –
“Fort Nelson First Nation is determined to take up our rightful role in the stewardship of our land in accordance with our Treaty Rights and our cultural, legal and social traditions. This interim agreement is an important step in achieving that vision. We look forward to working with B.C. and the other Treaty 8 communities in using it as a stepping stone to establish a harmonized relationship that fosters the well-being of our community and everyone living in the northeast.”
Chief Darlene Hunter, Halfway River First Nation –
“Industrial development has impacted our lands and disrupted our ability to practise our Treaty Rights and maintain our Dane-Zaa way of life. We are optimistic that through working together with B.C. and our neighbours, we can develop a better approach that supports Treaty Rights and local communities.”
Chief Justin Napoleon, Saulteau First Nations –
“For many years our treaty rights have been neglected and discounted, and our treaty lands and our communities have been fragmented by the cumulative impacts of poorly planned land-use decisions. This new agreement shows that this government intends to work with us to find new ways for co-management and true partnership. We believe that we can protect environmental and cultural values, and support communities through better planning for long-term and sustainable economic activity.”
Premier David Eby –
“Our shared work to co-develop these agreements represents a historic milestone for Treaty 8 Nations, for B.C. and for all of us who believe the path to reconciliation is through negotiation, not litigation. The future lies in a partnership approach to land, water and resource stewardship, one that strikes a better balance to honour Treaty 8, while providing more stability for people and industry in the region.”
Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation –
“The Consensus Document offers a new way of working together based on ongoing relationships, not one-off transactions. It sets a collective table over a larger, shared First Nations territory to discuss interests in healing the land, protection of treaty rights, and in development activities and economic opportunities. This is the way of the future for natural-resource development in British Columbia, and it will build greater certainty and stability across the landscape for British Columbians and industry. I commend the leadership of the Treaty 8 Nation Chiefs in leading the way in this partnership work with the Province.”
Dale Bumstead, principal, Scion Strategies Ltd. –
“This historic agreement with our Treaty 8 leadership demonstrates the commitment by our First Nation neighbours that there is a way forward for a strong and prosperous future for all in northeastern British Columbia. We need to all work together to ensure that as we see resource development occur for the economic benefits, that we also work side by side to heal the land and heal the people for a strong and healthy future for us all.”
- The Treaty 8 Nations in B.C. are: Doig River, Fort Nelson, Halfway River, McLeod Lake, Prophet River, Saulteau, West Moberly First Nations and Blueberry River.
- Honouring Treaty 8 is a crucial part of B.C.’s work to meet the Crown’s legal obligations to treaty and uphold the constitutionally protected rights of Treaty 8 First Nations and advance the directives of the court in the Yahey decision (Yahey v. British Columbia 2021 BCSC 1287).
- There are several fiscal components to the Consensus Document, including revenue sharing, interim capacity funding and a significant restoration fund.
- During the next two years, B.C. and Treaty 8 Nations will work as partners to promote respect for Treaty 8 through various initiatives, such as educational sessions, public engagement on racism and First Nations cultural training.
The full agreement(s) will be posted online in the coming weeks.
Doig River First Nation: https://doigriverfn.com/
Halfway River First Nation: https://halfwayrivergroup.ca/halfway-river-first-nation.php
Fort Nelson First Nation: http://www.fortnelsonfirstnation.org/
Saulteau First Nations: https://www.saulteau.com/
Treaty 8 Tribal Association: http://treaty8.bc.ca/
For more information visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023PREM0005-000060