By: The Working Forest Staff
BC FIRST NATIONS FORESTRY COUNCIL — Under the current provincial revenue sharing program (Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreements) First Nations communities receive a share of stumpage the Province collects from harvesting activities on their territories.
Since the start of this program in 2013, the Province has shared less than 6% of stumpage collected with First Nations.
Taking into consideration the total contribution of the Forest Industry to the GDP of approximately $13 billion/year over the last 4 years, the Province has shared less than 0.5%/year of the GDP with First Nations.
The current forest revenue sharing model with First Nations must change from sharing less than 6% to 50% of stumpage revenues collected.
“A Path Forward”
In 2018, as part of their commitment to advance the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and reconciliation, the Ministry Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) committed to developing a new BC & First Nations Forest Strategy (the ‘Forest Strategy’) in collaboration with BC First Nations. In 2019, this Forest Strategy was released, informed by almost a decade of engagement with BC First Nations, and developed in collaboration with the Province. It provides a framework for how BC can meet its commitments for the alignment of forestry laws with UNDRIP informed by First Nations priorities. However, the Government of BC is not living up to its commitment to First Nations. They have not endorsed or committed to the implementation of the Forest Strategy.
The Intention Paper released by the government on June 3, 2021, sets out a vision to modernize BC Forest policy, but it was developed with no input from First Nations and does not make any mention of the Forest Strategy.
The Intention Paper released by the government on June 3, 2021 sets out a vision to modernize BC Forest policy, but it was developed with no input from First Nations and does not make any mention of the Forest Strategy. The Intention Paper identifies that to support reconciliation there is a need to “increase economic and land management opportunities for Indigenous Peoples” but does not identify actions to support this goal. The Forest Strategy has six main goals that identify concrete steps the BC Government can take to advance reconciliation and support the implementation of UNDRIP. This includes shared decision-making, a collaborative approach to forest governance and stewardship, and access to a meaningful share of forest revenues derived from forest lands and resources in Indigenous territories.
In 2019, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) was passed and became law in BC. Through the Declaration Act BC has committed to aligning its laws with UNDRIP. The Forest Strategy is directly linked to the articles of UNDRIP and provides a framework for the BC government to implement UNDRIP and the Declaration Act.
The Forest Strategy has been fully endorsed by the First Nations leadership in BC and supported by the BC First Nations Leadership Council through resolutions passed by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations.
“It’s time for action”
What should economic reconciliation look like? Objectives outlined under Goal 2 of the Forest Strategy to support economic reconciliation include:
- The current forest revenue sharing model must change to increase the share of revenues with First Nations,
- First Nations should share in the economic benefits derived from forest lands and resources on their territories, and
- Forest revenue sharing will support First Nations governance capacity and a modernized government-to-government relationship.
With economic inclusion and the meaningful sharing of forest revenues and resources through tenure reform and other tools, First Nations have the potential to unlock billions of dollars and be partners in building a strong, diverse inclusive forest sector in BC.
“Economic reconciliation must establish the foundation for building an inclusive economy- this is the journey from invisibility to inclusivity of Indigenous Peoples. Economic reconciliation is the process of creating and facilitating meaningful partnerships and mutually beneficial opportunities to support Indigenous economic prosperity and inclusion” (Indigenomics, Taking a Seat at the Economic Table, Carol Anne Hilton, 2021).
So, what has to change in BC? A lot
The BC Government must live up to its commitment and endorse and implement the Forest Strategy which outlines a framework to support the implementation of UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The Forest Strategy should be used to guide and inform work under the Intention Paper to modernize forest policy in BC and forest sector transition with First Nations as full partners.
It’s time for the BC government to put words into action to advance economic reconciliation and Indigenous prosperity and inclusion in the forest sector. Meaningful sharing of forest revenues with all First Nations, not just some, supports Indigenomics, and economic reconciliation with First Nations as full partners in the forest sector.
Time for Talk is Over. #ItsTimeForAction