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BC First Nations Forestry Council Submits Forest Policy Recommendations: “First Nations Want to be Heard Now, Not Later”

Press Release

November 18, 2020 (Vancouver, BC) – The BC First Nations Forestry Council (the ‘Forestry Council’) has released its submission to the province laying out 20 recommendations from First Nations to inform proposed changes to the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA), Land Use Planning, and the development of a new strategy for old growth management that reflects First Nations’ values.

“This report gives the incoming provincial government an opportunity to get ahead of proposed amendments to policies and legislation, and work together with us and First Nations as partners in changes to forest policies and legislation, a commitment they made in 2018”, tells Charlene Higgins, CEO of the Forestry Council.

“Public engagement stakeholder processes used by the province for gathering input from First Nations that occur after-the-fact do not reflect commitments to implement UNDRIP or meaningful involvement of Nations in proposed amendments to forest policies and regulations”, explains Chief Bill Williams, President of the Forestry Council. “Nations are Rights holders, not stakeholders. They need to be involved in decision-making regarding the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources in their territories.”

FRPA is a critical piece of overarching legislation in BC that outlines how forest and range practices are conducted while also protecting environmental and social values. It was developed and introduced in 2004 without First Nations’ input or involvement. Amendments were made to FRPA in 2019 (Bill 21) without meaningful Indigenous involvement.

The newly released “What We Heard” and recommendations report – Indigenous Values and Principles for Defining Forest Stewardship Objectives – outlines specific feedback from Nations collected during engagement sessions in 2019, along with priorities identified during engagements in the spring of 2020.

Higgins explains that “this report is only the start of our work with Nations; it should be used to inform the next steps and enable a stronger relationship with the province in our continued efforts to work collaboratively on engaging and increasing the role First Nations play in the management of forest lands and resources”.

The 20 recommendations submitted to the province provide clear actions to take towards fulfilling their commitment to reconciliation through review of, and changes to, forest legislation, policy, and regulations with First Nations as full partners.

The report also reinforces the need for the provincial government to follow through on their commitment to fully endorse and implement the BC & First Nations Forest Strategy; a roadmap for how industry, the BC government, and First Nations can work together to build an inclusive and sustainable forest sector.

“Reconciliation is hard work” tells Higgins. “We look forward to continuing this work with the Nations and the new government, to put words into action in changes to forest policies, legislation and regulations to increase the role Nations play in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources.”

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